Good COP, Bad COP

A Sidelined Perspective
by -- December 16th, 2009

Prasad and Abbie did a great job of summing up the less illustrious moments of yesterday, so I’ll try to stay on point and tell you some of the more concrete takeaways of the day.


I went to a fascinating and ominous International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) event titled, “U.S. Action Towards an International Agreement.”

The U.S. actions towards an international agreement are by now well known: a substantial bill passed bill in the House, stalled for now in the Senate and a promising visit from Obama on Friday. What the panel added however, composed of staffers, was that Obama and others have not done a good enough job “messaging.”


Specific points included:

  • The cost of inaction has been largely forgotten, and thus, not well conveyed.
  • A decision needs to be made on which metric to sell to the American people, do we stop at 350ppm of CO2 or a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature?
  • A panelist said that though new polls show a drop in Americans’ belief in the deleterious consequences of climate change, this does not represent an overall lack of support, but instead a lack of education and clarity on the part of the messengers, and the poll drop will be considered irrelevant in the near future.
  • Obama needs to give better cover to Senators to ensure majority in coming elections.
  • The states that are the most vulnerable are underrepresented, and the states that are the most recalcitrant may lead a backlash against the EPA should it try to enforce the CO2 endangerment finding in an insensible manner, leading to a gutting of the Clean Air Act, worst-case scenario.
  • The new economy of clean tech jobs are going to exist somewhere, so lets make sure they exist in America first.

On a final note, good news, bad news. Lets do the bad news first. If you are frustrated that climate change legislation is getting sidelined until healthcare legislation is enacted, well, then you’re not going to like this; financial reform looks to come before climate change legislation as well. The dark side of this is that we might not see climate change legislation until 2011, but the bright side is that financial reform does need to take place to assuage those citizens and politicians who have a healthy fear of financial markets gone awry, and this confidence might have to be in place before a huge, new market in carbon trading takes off.

On a final good news note, I am not sure how much to read into this, but I briefly heard a panelist mention that over the past summer, a certain high-ranking Senator’s office had received a number e-mails about climate change, 1500 were against climate change legislation, and 34 were for it. Two points here: those e-mails that were using a pre-filled format were counted differently, which I read to mean less, and second, the fact that these little acts of democracy were even mentioned in the context of political pressure and decision-making suggests that letter-writing counts for more than one might think.

So lets write some personalized letters!

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