In it together

Jock Whittlesey, Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counsellor at US Embassy London reports from Copenhagen on how the US plans to tackle climate change – and how it can help other countries to do the same

I am writing as the long-awaited Copenhagen climate change conference has finally commenced. Several issues are reverberating in the air here at the Bella Centre where the Copenhagen meeting, or COP-15, is taking place, and around the world.

What will the United States put on the table in terms of emissions reductions targets? What financial commitments will the United States make to help developing countries reduce their emissions? And, will the ‘Climate Gate’ scandal affect the discussions? Let me deal with these questions individually.

US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing answered the first question very clearly in his press conference in Copenhagen, stating that “the President has put a remarkable amount on the table” to reduce climate change.

The Obama effect

Since President Obama took office, the US has done more to reduce emissions than ever before: our government is investing more than $80 billion in clean energy through the Recovery Act – including the largest-ever investment in renewable energy, which will double our renewable energy generating capacity in three years.

President Obama announced historic joint-fuel economy and carbon dioxide tailpipe standards for cars and trucks in May. We’ve forged more stringent efficiency standards for appliances like refrigerators and microwaves, and have a dozen more appliance standards under development.

We are already acting on climate change, and have been for years, to reduce emissions and use clean energy. We are moving towards our goal of lowering US greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 per cent by 2050.

Global partnership

But the United States is only responsible for about one fifth of global emissions. We cannot beat climate change without the partnership of countries around the world. The Copenhagen Agreement has to be global to solve the problem of climate change.

An important part of any international climate agreement will be to facilitate adaptation and deployment of clean energy technology. To meet the climate challenge, we need to promote and support the development and dissemination of clean energy technology around the world, including in developing countries.

After discussions with international leaders, President Obama concluded that there is an emerging consensus that one element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilise $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilised by the impacts of climate change.

Yes we can?

The President now plans to attend the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18th and this decision reflects his commitment to do all that he can to facilitate a positive outcome.

Will the ‘Climate Gate’ scandal change this? Absolutely not. The science of climate change is very robust, said Dr Pershing, and there are many, many strands of scientific evidence that make clear the strength of the scientific case on climate change.

The President is clear: the science says we must take action on climate change, and we are.

It will be a busy two weeks in Copenhagen, but we hope it will produce a significant step forward towards stopping climate change.