The first week of every COP meeting consists of posturing, speeches, protests, and NGO reports. Everything of significance to the treaty is announced late in the meetings, often on the last day, after a flurry of last-minute negotiations. Coming to Copenhagen at the climax of the talks, specifically to push negotiations “over the top,” as the White House statement says, is a risky move for Obama. He’s got skin in the game now; he’ll look foolish if he rides in at the last minute and fails to broker an agreement.
If he’s willing to stick his neck out like this, Obama must be pretty confident that he can get a deal. There have been signs of momentum for weeks now. The much-discussed deal with China was just one in a raft of commitments from the developing countries, including India and Brazil. Movement from the developing world has undercut one of U.S. conservatives’ principal arguments for inaction. Over 65 world leaders have pledged to attend.
Roberts also notes that the EPA will finalize its rule on CO2 on Monday, the first day of the Copenhagen conference. The EPA rulemaking has always been the hammer to force the Congress to act – either Congress will set up a system to regulate carbon, or the EPA will do it themselves, and they have every legal right (under a Supreme Court ruling) to do so.
Everyone knows that this White House is cautious. The President would have to be pretty convinced of the potential for an agreement to shift his schedule. Maybe his last trip to Copenhagen, to try and bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, was a mulligan. I think signs point to this trip going better.
The Copenhagen conference begins on Monday.