President Obama may have improved his chances for passing global warming legislation in the Senate by forging an interim international agreement here that puts both rich and poor countries on a path to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
E&E News (subs. req’d) agrees with CAP’s Dan Weiss (see “Why the newly inked Copenhagen Accord boosts the odds for Senate passage of bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs legislation”). And I agree, too, particularly since what happened during Copenhagen underscores what I said before Copenhagen: Everything Obama has done in the last few days, indeed every thing he has done in the past year, makes clear he is going to push very hard for climate legislation (see “Coming to Copenhagen commits Obama to getting the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill passed”).
Since it is Obama’s personal leadership that matters most to Senate passage at this point — his willingness to bargain as hard with the likes of Graham and McCain and Murkowski and Lugar and Collins and Snowe as he did with China and India and Brazil and South Africa and Indonesia — I am more confident than ever we will see a serious economy-wide climate and clean energy bill pass in 2010.
Indeed, E&E has some quotes from key swing-state Republicans to back up this view:
“Home run,” said Mark Helmke, a top staffer to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Satisfied the Europeans. Made China into a major world player, but made them accountable. Elevated India, Brazil and South Africa to world stage. Cut an important side deal with Russians on arms control.”Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), added, “Whenever you have developing countries, and certainly China and India stepping forward and indicating that they have a willingness to be a participant, I think that’s a strong indicator that we’ll have opportunities to be working and I think that that is progress.”
I think that there’s a solid chance both of them will ultimately vote for the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill that Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman are negotiating with the White House on.
Graham himself thinks Copenhagen isn’t really the issue:
My approach to this is really not that much Copenhagen dependent. Energy independence, there’s a lot of votes for.
Some leading environmentalists also think Copenhagen will help in the Senate:
“Obama had to have a deal in Copenhagen,” said Melissa Carey, a climate change policy specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “The Senate absolutely needed to see movement from developing nations, and that’s what we got. Was it everything we need to see? No. Was it enough? Thank God, yes. China could have given us the stiff-arm, and it didn’t happen.”
Kerry, the principle sponsor of the Senate climate bill, said the interim nature of the agreement does not matter as much as the substance of who signed up for what.
“I think you had to have some deal where the major emitters are beginning to reduce,” Kerry said. “Having China at the table was the most critical thing because most of our colleagues are saying, ‘Well what about China? What about China? If they don’t do it, it won’t make any difference.’ The less developed countries, the truly less developed countries barely emit. And so we have some time to work with them to bring them to the table.”
“Copenhagen helps us in the Senate, if not as much as a more complete result would have,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “It demonstrated that India and China, along with Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia are committed unilaterally to moving beyond our current carbon based economy.”
The fact that Obama was committed to passing a bill in the Senate was clear before Copenhagen. And it the more obvious now, as many others, including my old Department of Energy colleague Dirk Forrister, pointed out:
… some U.S.-based environmentalists say Obama demonstrated in Copenhagen and the days surrounding his trip here just how much he is engaged on the issue. For example, Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said Obama was able to argue the ins and outs of the domestic and international climate debate during an Oval Office meeting with environmentalists and business officials just before Copenhagen.”What will drive this bill is presidential leadership, and Obama showed he has the determination and leadership skills to put it all on the line and deliver,” said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation. “Would you bet against him after pulling off the breakthrough in Copenhagen when the talks had died? Not me.”
“I’m sure Senate observers got an sobering assessment of the international dimension of the climate issue — but they also saw the president’s resolve,” added Dirk Forrester, president of the NatSource consulting firm and former head of the Clinton-era White House Climate Change Task Force.
Forrester said he expects Obama to remain deeply engaged back in Washington now that Copenhagen is in the rear view mirror.
“Since he’s done it on the world stage, he’ll likely push hard domestically too, maintaining credibility and leadership,” Forrester said. “He came in against the odds, and withstood unbelievable assaults from Sudan and Venezuela, but he and his team stood their ground and forged a compromise that was very broadly supported.”
And that’s what I expect will happen in the Senate.