Obama To Copenhagen: Will Anything Change?

Posted on Thu 11/26/2009 by

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By Nick Loris

Before Barack Obama accepts his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the White House announced that the president will swing by the climate change summit in Copenhagen to outline the country’s climate goals. The AP reports:

The president will lay out his goals for reducing the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, pledging to cut heat-trapping pollution by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. That target reflects the still-unfinished climate legislation on Capitol Hill.”

This comes immediately after President Obama agreed to a green partnership with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a “Memorandum of Understanding to increase cooperation on energy security, clean energy, and climate change.”

Proposed to be the Conference that replaces the global emissions reduction targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen may not live up to initial expectations. A large reason for this is the emphatic reluctance of developing countries, despite commitments to ‘go green’, they won’t agree to carbon cuts. Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Ben Lieberman writes:

The Obama administration has also echoed its predecessor in recognizing that a post-Kyoto treaty that continues to exempt China, India, and other fast developing nations is futile. Those nations will account for most of the emissions growth in the years ahead. But the developing world insists on maintaining these exemptions, creating a rift unlikely to go away.”

President Obama’s trip may be nothing more than chance to cross something off his checklist and to say, ‘we’re making progress.” He may also be going to avoid criticism for not going. He won’t be joining the other heads of states during the final three days of the climate summit when all the major negotiations take place.

The reality is the economic consequences are too great and the environmental benefits are too small to sign onto an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto demonstrated this and the U.S. wisely avoided it. President Obama shouldn’t put the U.S. economy or sovereignty at stake for the sake of “getting something done.”

For more, check out Heritage’s Copenhagen Consequences.

Contributing Author Nick Loris writes at The Heritage Foundation and he is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

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