As many of us expected, the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen has failed to reach a substantive or binding agreement. The United States negotiating team refused to commit to specific targets for emission of greenhouse gases, continuing the policy initiated during the administration of George W. Bush when we refused to join other developed countries in signing the Kyoto Protocol.
Particularly positive develompents in Copenhagen include a strong showing by developing countries, including civil society participants alongside the official delegations. A new crop of climate activists has emerged, loosely coordinated through organizations such as Friends of the Earth, the Climate Action Network and the tcktcktck Global Citizens for Climate Action.
As Kumi Nadoo writes in his open letter to President Barack Obama, the paltry cuts in greenhouse gas emissions which the United States may successfully enact through the Waxman-Markley bill will fall considerably below what is necessary to avert catastrophic climate change. In addition, we have yet to make a commitment to long-term financial assistance for poor countries which will need to adapt to the impacts of our rapid industrial development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nadoo admonishes Obama for a lack of ambition and warns that many who were energized by his promise of hope are now becoming discouraged. Like Nadoo, I too cling on to hope. To quote Nadoo, "the prospect of personal leadership at the negotiations allows me to retain some ‘audacity of hope’ that (Barack Obama) will have both the courage and the vision to make history."