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Check out the full text of the U.S. China Joint Statement at CBS
The joint statement issued tonight from beijing has a remarkable number of agreements in it. But I only want to discuss the implications of the climate and energy agreements. (Well, first, I want to note that the Yuan isn’t budging yet, but a few barbs seem to have flown over recent US protectionism)
If we are to take this statement at its word, it suggests that the US is backing off its Bush era strategy of pitting US opposition to Kyoto on the failure to include binding targets for China. The nod to the Bali Action Plan, UNFCCC and even quoting the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” suggest that Obama is willing to play ball in a game where Annex I distinctions still rule. The distinction is spelled out even more clearly in the terms “emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries”.
I am still skeptical that Obama’s concession/posturing will mean anything for the outcome of Copenhagen, or that it could possible endure the US domestic ratification process if it ever made it that far. The statement stalls well short of promising that the emission reductions will be deep or putting a $$ on the adaptation and developing country assistance. But the change in tone and lack of offense from Obama for US climate positions makes a convincing show that the President thinks the issue deserves some sacrifices.
Here is the excerpt directly speaking to climate change negotiations: Continue reading
The last round of negotiations prior to the Copenhagen Summit in Barcelona fizzled to a message of decreased expectations. This has set the table for rapid political posturing from the US. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal quoted several key Senators, including climate bill sponsor Sen. Kerry, with various statements postponing the possibility of US domestic climate legislation until next year. Thursday the Washington Post broke a story that the Obama administration is feeling out the possibility for interim agreements in lieu of a formal treaty in December. This morning the first official news of President’s Asia trip is of an agreement with Japan that both countries will commit to decreasing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 with global reductions of 50% by mid century. With China and India on schedule for later in the trip it is probable that climate will come up again, although balance of trade and Yuan/$ exchange is likely to dominate the conversation (for more on expected China content check out Robert Borosage on Huff Post).
It seems to this writer that Obama is guarding his international reputation more than setting a clear signal that the US is ready to engage in international climate agreements. Continue reading
A recent report from Amnesty International finds that Israel has developed discriminatory practices that have created sever water scarcity for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Much has been made of the potential for resource scarcity to cause violent security issues. In this case it seems that insecurity has resulted in resource scarcity. According to the Amnesty report Israel has prevented Palestinians from accessing the surface water of the Jordan River, dominated use of the Mountain aquifer located under the West Bank, and prevented capital upkeep of sanitation stations in Gaza that are critical to refreshing the coastal aquifer. The impacts of the imbalance land heavily on the Palestinian households dependent on water from these natural sources. Decreased agricultural productivity and high costs to get needed clean water has placed substantial burdens on the economic well-being of affected households. The ongoing violence in Israel may not be caused by resource scarcity but it seems likely that the inequality and desperation caused by discriminatory Israeli water policies breeds societal insecurity.
I had the very good fortune to attend President Obama’s clean energy speech at MIT yesterday. I was extremely excited to be in the room, yet left disappointed in the lack of new commitments and jingoistic tone set by President Obama.
The theme of the speech was innovation, geared toward the research oriented host, MIT. Much was made of the pioneering identity of Americans, and our capacity for discovery and leadership. The frontier for the 21st century is the transition to clean energy. Obama expressed a certainty that the US has not lost its capacity to lead innovation, and that we can maintain world economic dominance by investing in clean energy. He referred to clean energy as a “peaceful competition” that will determine the leaders of the global economy. His belief that clean energy technology is the key to economic prosperity was inspiring and reassuring to me.
My concern is that the speech set Americans apart from the rest of the world in a competition, rather than affirming the need for global cooperation. Continue reading
The New Delhi Accord, reached today, between India and China aligns the two traditional rivals in a unified stance on climate change negotiations. This move in the lead up to Copenhagen will have meaningful impacts on the type of agreement that can possibly be accomplished there. The accord insists that neither China nor India will accept any binding restrictions on emissions. It holds firm to the Annex I and non-Annex I distinctions in the Kyoto protocol and reaffirmed at Bali. The South is uniting and the North may not have much in the way of recourse.
New reports from the NAS poverty measure show that 1 in 6 Americans are living in poverty. The news here is that the NAS figure increases the number of impoverished Americans by nearly 8 million over estimates that are based on the census bureaus index. The NAS measure accounts for increased health, transportation, childcare, and regional costs of living that are not equally reflected in the census bureau index.
The discrepancy should raise the question of what qualifies as poor. These unfortunate Americans have a great deal more access to standard human welfare than the 1 in 6 globally who are suffering in extreme poverty and benefit from important domestic safety net programs. I do not wish to disrespect the difficulties faced by those suffering in relative poverty in the US, nor to suggest that our measures of poverty are inflated. However if we are concerned to the point of action by their plight, should we not also take steps to address the crushing needs of the 1 billion living on less than 1.25$ a day.