This week, all eyes are on Paris as it hosts the leatest in a series of United Nation’s global warming meetings. In 2009, the UN held its previous climate change conference in Denmark. That conference, which then-Congressman Jay Inslee attended and is known as the Copenhagen Summit, was a colossal failure.
The Obama administration had high hopes back then for what would be accomplished, lauding it for the potential to create a new global warming treaty. But, that’s not what happened.
The Copenhagen Summit ended with an agreement so weak, it set a new record of pathetic for the UN—and remember, we’re talking about the UN here. The “agreement” that emerged recognized climate change as a treaty and noted that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below two degrees Celsius. However, the non-legally binding agreement did not contain any commitments or actual steps for achieving said goal.
In essence, after two weeks of meetings, all the Copenhagen Summit accomplished was vague language used to make a vague commitment that each participating country should make an attempt to reduce emissions. Even then, as the Heritage Foundation pointed out in 2010, the “face-saving language had to be pared back at the behest of China and other developing nations who did not want the final agreement to even hint that they might be obligated to do something.” Via the Heritage Foundation,
“Equally non-binding promises from developed nations to provide finance to poor countries and move forward with international monitoring of emissions are similarly meaningless. Also dropped was a provision requiring the parties to agree to binding targets in 2010. And as meaningless as the final accord is, the United Nations could not even agree to it—it merely stated that it ‘takes note’ of the final accord.”
At the start of this week’s Paris Summit, which many have predicted will essentially be Round II of Copenhagen, the Obama administration took steps to lower expectations. The fact that President Obama chose to speak at the beginning of the conference—rather than join in at the end when there would be an agreement to announce, as he did in Copenhagen—is just part of the “managing expectations” strategy. Via Politico,
“Aides say there’s a preliminary plan to have Obama himself, Cabinet officials and the White House communications operation dispatched to amplify the message about the significance of an agreement — what the United States is actually doing, what it means to people as Americans and as global citizens — but they’re wary of getting too far ahead of a result that may yet blow up in their faces.
“Managing measured expectations is how a White House aide described the planning.”
The primary message the Obama administration wants to communicate to the American people is that any action that will come out of the Paris conference will set long-term goals. Paul Bodnar, senior director for energy and climate change at the National Security Council, said that the administration’s “task in Paris is to secure a long-term framework in which countries set successive rounds of targets into the future, beyond 2030, and ratchet down their carbon emissions over the course of the coming decades in the context of strong transparency and accountability provisions.”
David Sandalow, who has served as a top climate and energy official in the Obama and Clinton administrations, called “inflated expectations” one of the greatest challenges facing the Paris conference.
Todd Stern, who will serve as the Obama administration’s top climate negotiator in Paris, told reporters that he is “cautiously optimistic that the Paris summit will be a success.”
Into this murky mess jumps Jay Inslee. Our green governor appears to have been left out of the Obama administration’s “managing expectations” strategy—just as he has been left out of the negotiations at the conference he wasn’t really even invited to. Rather than dialing down the “hope and change” language, Inslee has his dial set at maximum.
Prior to his trip to Paris, which will last four days, Inslee has been touting high expectations for the conference—hence the large entourage of local and state officials who also were not invited to the conference, but who will accompany him anyway. Declaring the state’s commitment to combating “the scourge” of climate change, Inslee repeated a favorite line of his and told the Seattle Times, “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last to be able to do something about it.”
But, the “managing expectations” strategy is not the only message Inslee is failing to communicate. In direct opposition to Obama administrations long-term vision message, Inslee is insisting on the importance of achieving short-term action. Inslee said of a carbon reduction rule he plans to endorse in Paris, “I believe that short-term action that is strong and consistent with our current economic realities is more important than long-term vision statements.”
Considering that Inslee has not learned the lesson of the Copenhagen Summit—and the fact that he is out-of-tune with the Obama administration—it’s no wonder that the nation’s “greenest” governor has been left out of all negotiations in Paris.
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