The United Nations conference on climate change kicks off today in Copenhagen, Denmark where Obama will make an appearance, committing the U.S. to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. While this emission reduction pledge falls short of what the science tells us is necessary (25- 40% greenhouse gas emission reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to stabilize CO2 concentration below 450 parts per million) there are encouraging signs that the U.S. is assuming its needed leadership role in global climate talks.

For starters, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency will issue its “endangerment” finding today that greenhouse gas emissions constitute a threat to public health and welfare. This will trigger science-based regulations – a process that, while fraught with potential legal challenges, can deliver on Obama’s promise to commit the US to significant greenhouse gas emissions without the lobbyist-inspired congressional proposals that feature the same greenhouse-gas emission targets but with a heavy dose of corporate-utility giveaways, new nuclear power subsidies, expanded oil and natural gas drilling and the creation of a trillion-dollar pollution trading market that will be dominated by Wall Street. Indeed, Obama understands this, as his energy plan still assumes a 100% auction that requires all polluters to pay, thereby raising $627 billion from 2012-19, with 20% of that total dedicated to investment in clean energy technologies.

Public Citizen understands that climate change is a transformative event that requires us to rethink our corporate model of centralized energy production. Rather than promote market-based solutions to protecting the planet that will hand billions of dollars in windfall profits to polluters and Wall Street, we need a decentralized energy system where families generate their power needs from rooftop solar, small scale wind and massive new investments in energy efficiency.

Obama has led the way, highlighting the trifecta of diplomacy, regulations, and auctioning that reminds us that there are altermatives to the cap and trade Washington consensus that will only deliver new nukes, more oil drilling and more coal-power plants without a real change in our energy status-quo.

Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Flickr photo by america.gov.

Comments

  • […] it’s a start, but, as we’ve said previously, is simply not enough– and we’re not the only ones who think so. Some estimates, such as the Climate […]

  • […] it’s a start, but, as we’ve said previously, is simply not enough– and we’re not the only ones who think so. Some estimates, such as the Climate […]

  • ron tjerandsen

    If President Obama was standing up to the corporate beast and speaking with the same conviction with which he wooed us during his campaign, then he would be publicly announcing that James Hansen would be accompanying him to Copenhagen. Period. Full stop.

  • A good product always sells itself !

  • Edmund Levering

    12/8/09
    Population stabilization is key to achieving the major reductions in greenhouse gases that are the cause of global warming.Almost no one is talking about the crucial role of population stabilization in addressing global warming/climate change.It definitely needs to be raised at the Copenhagen Summit.

    Sincerely,
    Edmund Levering

    • Hi Edmund,

      I think more important than population stablization is gains in energy efficiency. The U.S. uses twice the energy per person than our competitors in Western Europe and Japan. So even if we had a smaller population, our energy consumption rate would be unsustainable. Providing more tools to help families use energy more effectively, and financing more access to sustainable alternatives is the key.

    • Ya learn something new ervydeay. It’s true I guess!

  • “…There’s a beacon in the sky, meant to catch your eye…”, sung by Happy Rhodes. Concentration on solar energy, no non-renewable energy resources and no nuclear, is what’s needed; and a green jobs movement. We can’t ignore reality, must prevent the point at which ecological destruction becomes irreversible, and humanity and large mammals are extinct, now, in the future; if not you, then who, now, then when, here, where, this, what? Thank you for your consideration.

    reality

    • James – You’re absolutely correct! The U.S. has the potential to be the Saudi Arabia of wind and solar – we just need the right incentives (feed-in tariffs) and America’s buildings can become solar power plants.

  • viva la evolution, viva green party :)

    everything 4 everyone, 14all41, 360/24/7/365/1 :)

    reality

  • lynda

    More like “Carbonhagen”…The hypocrisy is astounding but not surprising…Reducing CO2 will do basically nothing as far as ‘climate change’ goes…And all those riding in on jets, and limo’s probably think the same thing…THEY certainly aren’t going to give anything up…

  • […] you haven’t already, see what Public Citizen Energy Director Tyson Slocum’s Thoughts on Copenhagen over at Public Citizen’s new Citizen Energy […]

  • Alice Wright

    Given the recent past in which the US government put its head in the sand as far as CO2 emissions are concerned, I think Obama is doing well. He’s at least taking a step in THE RIGHT DIRECTION, rather than the wrong direction, as we’ve seen previously. I agree that 17% is not enough. We’ll look for more later.

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