It’s been a long week-and-a-half of tough negotiations at Copenhagen. There have been many stops and starts, late night sessions that go well into the next morning and more than a few frustrated negotiators. As far as the NGOs, we are usually standing outside on the snow-covered ground for hours, trying to get back into the conference center that we may have left only a few hours before (by the way, thank you Greenpeace for the free coffee every morning). For all of us, it has been an exhausting process.
Fortunately, some progress has been made. Today, Secretary Clinton announced that the U.S. is committed to working with partner countries in mobilizing $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries address climate change. This follows yesterday’s statement by Secretary Vilsack announcing that the U.S. will provide $1 billion over three years starting in 2010 to help developing countries address deforestation.
The U.S. is clearly working to get a deal…but is it enough?
There is an underlying theme in both of these financial commitments—forests. The $1 billion in 2010 is funding specifically meant to halt tropical deforestation right now. As for the pledge to raise $100 billion by 2020, Secretary Clinton said, “this will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly…for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.”
Clearly, the U.S. is expending a great deal of political capital in trying to secure a global climate agreement by sending a team of high level officials, including Secretary Clinton, their top diplomat. Also, the U.S. commitments to protect forests are focused on an issue that has been one of the strongest areas of consensus of these negotiations.
A successful agreement here is about more than just forests. There are many questions about difficult issues like emission reduction targets, compliance measures, or even the very structure of the agreement. President Obama is walking a fine line between the expectations of the world community, the ability of Congress to deliver adequate legislation—plus, of course, what science says the world needs. More work needs to be done, and there is not a lot of time, but hopefully forests can serve as a strong pillar to build upon.
The table is set—let’s get down to business.