EU Official: Romney Could Make Climate Negotiations ‘More Of An Uphill Struggle’

by Nathaniel Niemann and Stephen Lacey

Mitt Romney’s stance on avoiding action on global warming has been well established.

Saying last year that he believes reducing CO2 emissions is “not the right course for us,” Romney falsely claimed that “we don’t know” what is causing climate change.

Actually, we do know. Even a prominent scientist funded by the Koch brothers agreed with the scientific consensus when he recently concluded that humans are almost entirely the cause” of our warming planet.

So how would Romney’s stance on climate science impact ongoing international negotiations on addressing the issue? According to an article published today by the European news outlet EurActive, some diplomats are expressing fears that a Romney Administration could negatively change the process.

EurActive is reporting on comments from two international climate experts who said that a Romney presidency “would make [climate negotiations] more of an uphill struggle than they are now,” dramatically reducing the chances for international action:

Nigel Purvis, an advisor to the US’s chief Kyoto negotiator in 1998, said that as a president, Romney “would probably have less of an interest in reaching a global agreement [at ICAO] that genuinely reduces emissions in an ambitious kind of way”.

Purvis is the founder and president of the Climate Advisers consultancy.

Under a Romney presidency, there would also be “an enormous change in the level of urgency and attention,” given to negotiations for a successor deal to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of this year, Purvis told EurActiv.

“Romney is not prepared to do anything which has any political cost,” he added.

An EU official told EurActiv that he expected climate talks would “become much harder again” under a Romney administration, while EU-US relations on climate issues would become “quite challenging”.

“It would make [climate negotiations] more of an uphill struggle than they are now,” another EU source said.

“The first thing [Romney] would do would be to fire [US climate chief negotiator] Todd Stern and find someone with his own climate change agenda because Todd Stern has some knowledge about this issue,” the source speculated.

Given that Romney’s energy policy focuses almost entirely on a massive increase in fossil fuels, his recent recently-changed stance that we should “consider the risk of negative consequences” of climate change, is nothing more than lip-service to the issue.

At this point, experts can only speculate as to how a Romney Administration would treat international climate talks.

Some, like Andrew Light, director of international climate policy at the Center for American Progress, believe that the impact could be more limited. Because climate change is becoming a broader piece of foreign policy and diplomacy, Light said “there would be members of the administration who are not isolationists” who might understand the importance of participating in climate negotiations.

“Climate negotiations are coming close to breaking out of their silo, making climate a central driver of broader foreign policy. In that case, leaving the negotiations behind would escalate into a much bigger problem,” Light told Climate Progress before last year’s negotiations in Durban.

However, there’s a big difference between simply participating and actually brokering positive action. And even if a Romney Administration remains within the negotiations, experts are clearly concerned that he would make a difficult process even more difficult.

Nathaniel Niemann is an intern for ThinkProgress coming all the way from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan; Stephen Lacey is Deputy Editor for Climate Progress.