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Obama dials for Copenhagen deal

December 15, 2009 |  5:32 am

President Obama will not arrive at the Copenhagen climate summit until Friday, its final day, but he worked the phones Monday to push world leaders to cut a deal on a new global-warming agreement.

“The president’s been very engaged on this issue,” Todd Stern, Obama’s special climate envoy, told reporters at the summit Monday.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the calls to reporters in Washington and said Obama would stay engaged all week. “When the president picks up the phone and calls world leaders, I would define that as personally involved,” Gibbs said.

Stern said negotiators also are spurred by the simple fact that Obama and 110-odd other heads of state are set to arrive later this week. It’s a major departure from the last several climate conferences, including the Kyoto meeting in 1997, which yielded the first global treaty to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Those meetings were dominated by ambassadors and environmental ministers.

Bringing the top guns to town, Stern said, puts pressure on negotiators to hammer out their differences over the next couple of days. Stern said he hoped “everything’s resolved” for a climate agreement by the time Obama arrives Friday morning.

Sure enough, after an early protest by African delegates over the fate of the Kyoto treaty stalled talks briefly today, negotiators rolled up their sleeves for what could be all-night discussions.

“Everybody who’s got their boss coming is keen to have things in as good a shape as possible,” Stern said. “I don’t think it’s bad pressure. It’s just pressure.”

[Updated at 5:38 a.m.: The White House said Obama talked with Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh.

Here is how the White House described the calls:

"President Obama encouraged Prime Minister Hasina to help reach robust agreement at the Leaders summit later this week in Copenhagen. The President reviewed efforts by the United States on climate change and reiterated his commitment to making progress. He emphasized his desire to reach a pragmatic solution that encompasses action by all countries. For her part, Prime Minister Hasina expressed appreciation for the efforts of the United States and noted that 80% of Bangladesh’s 150 million people could be negatively affected by climate change. The two leaders agreed on the importance of working closely with the Danish Prime Minister to reach an appropriate agreement and of encouraging all developed and developing countries to play a constructive role. The President also expressed support for Bangladesh’s efforts to combat terrorism in South Asia.

"With Prime Minister Meles, the President reviewed efforts by the United States on climate change and reiterated his commitment to making progress. He expressed his appreciation for the leadership role the Prime Minister was playing in work with African countries on climate change, and urged him to help reach agreement at the Leaders summit later this week in Copenhagen. For his part, Prime Minister Meles stressed the importance of success in Copenhagen, and the need to find ways to make suitable progress on the mitigation, adaptation, and the provision of finance for the developing countries."]

-- Jim Tankersley in Copenhagen, with Christi Parsons in Washington

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