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The United States has historically been the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world — accounting for about one-fifth of the global total — but emissions are growing fastest among the
rapidly developing countries.
Just this year, China may have passed the US as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitting nation.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration has failed to engage the developing world just as it has failed to adopt a meaningful policy at home. Making the U.S. a leader in combating climate change will require the United States to get its own house in order; re-engage and re-energize international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas pollution; and most importantly do so with the urgency this brewing crisis demands.
Re-Engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): As the world prepares for the post-2012 phase of the UNFCCC, the United States must regain its leadership role in multiple forums to negotiate effective climate agreements. This requires re-engagement with the diplomatic efforts under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change . The UNFCCC process is the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem and an Obama administration will work constructively within it.
- Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters: President Bush recently invited world leaders of the 15 largest emitters of greenhouse gases to a two-day conference, yet he failed to show up with any binding domestic commitments or funding for international efforts to combat climate change. Not surprisingly, these world leaders criticized the U.S. commitment to climate change and we missed an opportunity to join other countries with a serious plan to tackle this challenge.
- Barack Obama will take seriously the U.S.’s leadership role in combating climate change. Obama will signal to the world the U.S. commitment to climate change leadership by implementing an aggressive domestic cap-and-trade program coupled with increased investments in clean energy development and deployment.
- Obama will build on our domestic commitments by creating a negotiating process that involves a smaller number of countries than the nearly 200 countries in the current Kyoto system.
- Obama will create a Global Energy Forum – based on the G8+5, which included all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – of the world’s largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues.
- Maintaining a standing international body focused on these issues will give a forum for all of the major emitters – past, present and future – to discuss efforts to combat climate change. In addition, it will give the U.S. and its allies regular opportunities to exert maximum pressure on China and India to do their part and make real commitments of their own.
- Obama believes it is important to make clear that the current Bush voluntary approach allows the biggest emitters to escape all international pressure to be a “responsible stakeholder” in the global environment. This Global Energy Forum will complement – and ultimately merge with – the much larger negotiation process underway at the UN to develop a post-Kyoto framework. On a technical level, it will also allow facilitate technology transfer, joint international research, and, importantly, the numerous large-scale international demonstration projects that must be embarked upon immediately in order to make these technologies economically appealing alternatives.
- Transfer American Technology to the Developing World to Fight Climate Change: As nations around the world come together to combat global warming, the market for low-carbon energy products will grow significantly.
- Obama will create a Technology Transfer program within the Department of Energy dedicated to exporting climate-friendly technologies, including green buildings, clean coal and advanced automobiles, to developing countries to help them combat climate change.
- Obama will allow U.S. emitters subject to the cap-and-trade mandates to offset some of their emissions by investing in low carbon energy projects in the developing world. This will help ensure that emissions in both the U.S. and the developing world are reduced.
- Cooperate with Oil Importers to Reduce Demand. As new large oil importers come on the market, the United States is at the mercy of an ever more volatile oil market. Obama believes we should use existing organizations, like NATO, to make energy security a shared global goal. We should take steps to engage the largest new consumers, China and India, including by inviting them to join the International Energy Agency. Though they are not OECD countries, a formalized relationship – where we work together on common analysis and emergency response mechanisms – for them with the International Energy Agency (IEA) is imperative. China has completed the first stage of its strategic petroleum reserves and it is in our interest to see them complete that process so that they no longer can freeload on the strategic reserves of IEA members in times of tight oil markets, as was the case after Hurricane Katrina.
- Ensure the United States Works with Developing Countries on Climate Change. The world’s poorest countries are already suffering the impact of climate change through drought, famine and water scarcity, even though they are not responsible for the greenhouse gas pollution causing the climate to change. The Obama Administration will permit international offsets under the carbon cap to promote the transfer of low carbon energy to developing countries. An Obama administration will also ensure that U.S. foreign assistance is wisely invested in projects designed to help developing countries adapt to a changing climate.
- Confront Deforestation and Promote Carbon Sequestration: A comprehensive strategy to combat global warming must address tropical deforestation which accounts for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As forests are cut down, burned and converted to other uses, carbon stored in wood, leaves, and soils are released into the atmosphere.
- Reducing rates of tropical deforestation will not only slow greenhouse gas emissions but will also protect the livelihoods of local people and the abundance of biodiversity inextricably linked to those forests. By offering incentives to maintain forests and manage them sustainably, the United States can play a leadership role in dealing with climate change.
- In addition we must develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that
- capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Encouraging these efforts will also provide improve water quality and restore natural areas for wildlife and recreation.