With the swing of a gavel on Saturday, the world’s nations adopted the first international agreement to limit the causes of anthropogenic climate change. For the first time in history, more than 150 countries have promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere and to increase these reductions over time.
For the first time, climate change has received full treatment in an important State Department planning document, joining terrorism, democracy, and the global economy among the nation’s top diplomatic priorities. It’s the clearest sign yet that the warming climate has the full attention of the Obama administration.
The United Nations climate change negotiations are headed towards a major deadline this December in Paris to create a new global agreement. The summit presents an ideal place for the US and Latin American and Caribbean leaders to candidly and privately discuss the issue.
He wouldn’t put it this way, but Secretary of State John Kerry announced this week that the U.S. government will turn the screws on India over the country’s environmental record. In a joint event, the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency declared that they will install air pollution monitoring devices on more U.S. embassies around the world and release their findings.
Climate change has been at the forefront of the president’s recent diplomatic agenda. It should stay there. This week, U.S. President Barack Obama made his second visit to India. As during his trip to China last year, where he signed a landmark agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change ranked near the top of the agenda.
Eco-warriors on the front lines of climate diplomacy often frame the environmental conflict between the developed and the developing world as a version of the notorious skirmish between Lawrence H. Summers and José Lutzenberger, which happened on the sidelines of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, widely seen as the official start of the world’s interest in climate change.
As the world gathers in Lima to discuss next year's climate deadline, a lot of focus is on the US-China climate agreement. While alone that deal has not paved a pathway for a meaningful global agreement all the way to Paris, if you detour through New Delhi something intriguing and hopeful emerges.
As long as nation-states have distinctly different levels of energy-dependent economic development, and their self-interests are so varied, there is really no basis for the mutuality of interest required for a meaningful treaty.