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Bad Weather, But Hope for the Climate

<p>The U.N. hekd an unusually uplifting dinner last night that featured heavyweights Ban Ki Moon, Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, each of whom laid out their vision for a deal at COP-15 and a climate bill next spring in the U.S. They are convinced that we will have an international agreement and an American bill, both of which can lead to the innovations we need to change the chemistry of the atmosphere that we have tampered with so severely.</p>

Amidst a snowstorm in Copenhagen last night, Ban Ki Moon, Al Gore and U.S. Senator John Kerry each laid out their vision for a deal at COP-15 and a climate bill next spring in the U.S. 

During an unusually uplifting dinner sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, Vice President Gore warmed guests with his optimism that the chicken-and- egg conundrum of  “Who goes first, the U.S. or the U.N., the U.N. or the U.S.?” will be resolved. 

“We’ve come to a point of discontinuity between civilization and the survival of the planet,” he said, “and we can’t settle into thinking that we can’t fix it.”
He said that Copenhagen provided a critical deadline that spurred countries to act and has already resulted in tremendous progress.  Every major economy has declared meaningful reduction numbers and actions, including China, India, Brazil and the U.S. 

His three-part recipe for success at this meeting and in the U.S. Congress is to pass climate-curbing legislation in the U.S., using the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in April 2010 as the impetus; hold another treaty negotiating meeting six months before the next COP, as he urged heads of state to do today; and to shift the date of COP16 from the politically hot month of November in the U.S. to the hottest month of the year in Mexico -- July. 

Diners then got to watch diplomacy in action, as Ban Ki Moon addressed the crowd of influential global politicians, financiers, funders and NGO leaders.  He focused his remarks almost exclusively on the importance of the United States in reaching a deal here.  He essentially told his fellow guest of honor, Senator John Kerry, that the U.S. best pass a climate bill and to please send that message loud and clear to President Obama. 

Ban doesn’t really sound like that, but Kerry was forthright.  He called on the Secretary General to use his might to get a deal done here in the next 36 hours.  “If we don’t get an agreement in Copenhagen,” he said, “the U.S. won’t pass the bill.”  He explained that if COP15 is successful, it will bolster Senate action.

Kerry spelled out the ingredients for a deal, addressing the main stumbling blocks.  On transparency, he clearly wanted Ban to convey to global leaders here that countries, including China, don’t need to worry about climate police verifying every claimed ton of greenhouse gas reductions.  Instead, he conveyed that an attitude shift on the part of all countries could resolve the sticky issue of reporting and verifying emissions reductions. 

If one has a commitment to do something, it is only reasonable that there is a means to ensure the commitment is met.  But reporting does not need to be to the U.N., and the concept of transparency should be based on a sense of collegiality, of exchanging information with each other to foster best practices. 

On finance, Kerry eloquently made the case that the developed countries did become wealthy and contribute much to the world, but development had unforeseen consequences that are severely threatening lives and national viability.  The developed countries therefore owe it to others to help rectify this.  He said forestation was also part of the equation for delivering a deal, as is the most fundamental of all issues as far as the environment is concerned -- that of greenhouse gas reduction levels.

Both Kerry and Gore said that once reductions targets are set, every country will surpass them.  China will go beyond its 45 percent reduction in energy intensity; the US will go below the 17 percent by 2020 in its proposed domestic legislation.  Kerry, Gore and many others here from government and business have said that money will flow from the private sector, and jobs and wealth will be created. 

There are so many people here at COP15, and the sense of urgency to deal with this historic challenge is palpable.  Kerry said that every single scientific prediction continues to show a world in greater and greater jeopardy. 

But on that third-to-the-last day when COP negotiation always look headed for disaster, as they now do, there is also a tremendous sense of optimism outside the Bella Center. 

The potentates who spoke tonight are also speaking to the presidents and key negotiators who are sequestered there, helping lay out the framework that will bring political success in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and more importantly, environmental success in the years to come.

They are convinced that we will have an international agreement and an American bill, both of which can lead to the innovations we need to change the chemistry of the atmosphere that we have tampered with so severely. 

As Steven Chu said a few nights ago, “If necessity is the mother of all inventions, then this is the mother of all necessities.”

Holly Kaufman is founder and president of Environment & Enterprise Strategies, a consultancy that specializes in the design and management of projects that integrate business, human and environmental needs. She was a Presidential appointee to represent the U.S. at United Nations climate change treaty negotiations for the Departments of State and Defense, among other government positions.

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the and teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower, Gunther and dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user UN Climate Change.

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