Yesterday was the beginning of the Copenhagen talks. It was a day for grand ceremonies, loud protesters, and carefully rehearsed opening statements by dignitaries, conference officials and country delegates. Countries typically use this day to reiterate their well established positions; dignitaries and officials tend to keep their remarks in a positive light, hoping to encourage progress,
However, once in a while, a country may take this opportunity to unveil something new, a new position or action that has the ability to change the direction of the talks.
Yesterday, the U.S. made such an unveiling. Ironically, their action didn’t happen here in Copenhagen, but back in Washington, D.C. over 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) away. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an “endangerment finding” which concludes that greenhouse gas emissions threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.
What does this mean? Simply put, this means that the U.S. must reduce their levels of greenhouse gas pollution. Although President Obama has indicated his support for a climate change bill from the U.S. Congress, if there is no bill the EPA will act through regulation. It is not simply up to Congress anymore: there is another option.
The talks here in Copenhagen are just beginning. In their statement during the opening meetings, the U.S. indicated that they are fully committed to this process. We’ll see how things develop over the upcoming days, but the EPA endangerment finding kicks the U.S. commitment, and hopefully these talks, up a notch!
Manuel Oliva is Director of U.S. Climate Policy at Conservation International.
Many CI delegates from all over the world will be attending the COP15 Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. See who’s going and read about CI’s agenda and climate policy positions on our COP15 page.