Thursday, July 9, 2009

Greenpeace climbers scale Mount Rushmore to Send Message to Obama

In this picture provided by the environmental group Greenpeace, Greenpeace climbers rappel down the face of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D. on Wednesday to unfurl a banner that challenges President Obama to show leadership on global warming. A federal prosecutor says a dozen people were taken into custody after the incident.
AP Photo

Global warming, world economies, and nuclear weapons have been the topics as the Obama administration moved on from the 2009 Moscow Start Talks to the G8 Economic Summit. The White House issued a fact sheet: Meeting the International Clean Energy and Climate Change Challenges, and held a press briefing.

"Every nation on this planet is at risk. And just as no one nation is responsible for climate change, no one nation can address it alone. That is why, back in April, I convened this forum of the world’s major economies – responsible for more than three-quarters of the world’s carbon pollution. And it is why we have gathered again here today." President Barack Obama, L'Aquila, Italy. July 9, 2009

The Status Quo is Not Sustainable, says U.S. Special Envoy Todd Stern
Overview of W.H. press release 7-9-09

Concerns about the US economic crisis aside, "You can't wait" on addressing climate change, the U.S. Special Envoy for International Economics, Todd Stern, told reporters gathered at an international press conference in L'Aquila, Italy, "I mean, the status quo is not a sustainable thing".

At the U.S. Press Filing Center in L'Aquila, Italy, U.S. Special Envoy for International Economics Todd Stern, held a press conference. The Group of Eight discussed how a process of global governance might be established, and Stern made a brief statement:

MR. STERN: Thanks very much. I'm just going to run very briefly through a few highlights from the declaration, and then we can go right to questions.

There were a number of key points, I think, that came out in the declaration agreed to by the 17 leaders. These include the agreement that global and national emissions should peak as soon as possible, that the MEF developed countries will undertake prompt action to produce robust reductions in their emissions in the midterm, consistent with their long-term ambitious goals -- in their case, 80 percent below by 2050.

The MEF developing countries agreed to take prompt action to reduce their emissions as compared to their "business as usual" trajectory in the midterm. The parties also agreed to prepare long-term low-carbon growth plans to guide their long-term development. They agreed to work between now and Copenhagen to arrive at a 2050 goal -- we talked about that a little bit yesterday. And also there was an agreement on reductions from deforestation.

There was an addition, an agreement to establish a global partnership to drive transformational technology development and a set of countries agreeing to take the lead in a number of different technologies. Also, a broad set of agreements with respect to the structure of a financing package -- not a number, but a structure, including a number of elements such as the sources of the financing, including the carbon markets and public sources as well, that the establishment of -- the set up of the fund should take advantage of existing institutions, should have balanced governance and the like. And there are also some important sentences with respect to adaptation.

So it was an overall declaration, it includes a number of important points, a number of the mitigation points that I just mentioned have never been agreed to before and I think that's -- and we can take questions.

Several reporters tried to offer what might be called a way out for leaders concerned about the burden of addressing global warming.

Question: (no name given) The ordinary American taxpayer may say, wait a minute, is this really the right time to impose a cap and trade system, to place a new tax on carbon when the U.S. economy is struggling to get out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression? I mean, can you address that, why there shouldn't even be some anxiety about that and that shouldn't at least in some way influence the debate about this issue?

MR. STERN: Sure. Sure. It's understandable that there's some anxiety about it, but there's a couple of points to be made and the President has made these points I think on many occasions.

First of all, the nature of the problem is such that you can't wait. I mean, the status quo is not a sustainable thing.

But secondly, there is -- you could put it aside, pretend that you can wait for some number of years, continue to lock in investment in high-carbon technology -- or you can take steps to build the kind of economy that is going to be sustainable, that is going to build a plant and equipment that's going to be able to last. It's the right economic move to make. If you don't make this you're going to end up spending more money a few years down the road.

So there's no point in having a huge, big stimulus effort which simply locks in old technology, locks in a high-carbon path -- which is completely unsustainable; science, unfortunately, is undoubtedly just going to get worse on this issue, not better -- and the plain reality, this is absolutely compellingly true for countries like China and India and everywhere else, as well as that the high carbon cap is simply untenable. And you're going to suffer economically -- not just in the environment -- you're going to suffer economically if you choose that path, because in not very many years, if it looks bad now it's going to look worse and it's going to be completely untenable.

So the President is making the right choice, and it is the right choice to move forward on this now, even though the anxiety people feel is quite understandable.

Q Mike, did the anxiety come up in the conversations? Did any of the member nations wonder aloud if this is really the right time, if another time, a better economic scenario might be wiser?

MR. FROMAN: I think the only instance in which it came up was a recognition that the challenge that the global community faces would be difficult under any circumstance. In the current economic circumstance, it is challenging, but that it's equally urgent. And as Todd said, it's not something that can be wait -- that can wait and just be put off for several years.

And I would just -- I just want to underscore one thing that Todd said earlier -- and, again, I hope you all have the fact sheet. The half-dozen specifics in the mitigation paragraph that were agreed to by developed and developing countries are really quite significant steps forward and quite significant contributions to the U.N. negotiations. It's not the end of the line. As Todd said, there's still negotiations to be had, there's still numbers to fill in. But those are things that have been agreed to for the first time by developing and developed countries alike, and really make a meaningful contribution towards the resolution of this issue.

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