In announcing President Obama’s decision to stop by the climate talks in Copenhagen next month, the White House today detailed the administration’s efforts so far to curtail climate change, calling it "an impressive resume of American action and accomplishments over the last ten months.”
The administration plans to keep burnishing that image in Copenhagen with almost daily speeches by U.S. Cabinet secretaries during the 12-day conference, the White House said.
The president, meanwhile, plans — "in the context of an overall deal in Copenhagen that includes robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies" — to offer a mid-term U.S. greenhouse gas reduction target in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The target would be in line with legislation passed by the U.S. House, but it still falls well short of the reductions called for by the IPCC.
The decision for Obama to attend the Copenhagen conference, even if for only a few hours, came as pressure from home and abroad increased for the president to take an active part in supporting international climate action.
Critics, many of whom backed him in the presidential campaign when he promised stronger U.S. action, were quieted — at least temporarily.
“President Obama’s decision to attend the Copenhagen climate summit is an important statement of his deep personal commitment to addressing this issue," said Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center of Global Climate Change.
“It signals his determination both to enact strong U.S. energy and climate legislation and to secure a comprehensive international agreement ensuring that other countries do their part as well."
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen sent invitations to the leaders of 191 countries last week requesting their attendance at the Dec. 7–18 U.N.-led summit. On Sunday, he announced that more than 60 had confirmed, including the UK’s Gordon Brown, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama. But Obama — as well as Chinese President Hu Jintao — had been conspicuously absent from the list of confirmed attendees.
Obama's visit is expected to be brief and, significantly, very early in the conference. Decisions are not likely to be reached until the last several days.
"If his presence during the latter days of the COP becomes necessary to secure the right commitments, we hope the president will be willing to return to Copenhagen with the rest of the world's leaders during the final stages of the negotiations," said World Wildlife Fund Climate Program Director Keya Chatterjee.
Obama will be in Copenhagen on Dec. 9 before continuing to Oslo, Norway, to receive his Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10. Officials were not sure today of the president's exact itinerary or whether he would spend the night in Denmark. “We haven't picked a hotel yet,” quipped spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The administration will still have a powerful presence at the Copenhagen summit. The U.S. delegation will include Cabinet secretaries and other top administration officials, including the secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Energy, as well as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner.
The delegation will be in attendance “throughout” the conference, Browner told reporters today.
Its members will be publicizing the administration’s climate actions at a “U.S. Center” at Copenhagen that will host “a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world," according to the White House . Those accomplishments, it notes, include the recovery act's investment of more than $80 billion in clean energy; new efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances; and a push to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies globally, among other actions.
The midterm target that Obama is expected to put forward at Copenhagen will be “in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation,” the White House said. That is expected to included a reduction of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.