After some uncertainty, President Obama will go to Copenhagen for the UN climate conference on December 9 after all. He'll deliver a speech on the third day of the week-and-a-half-long conference on his way to Oslo, where he'll accept his Nobel Peace Prize the next day.
While the president is making a rather quick stop at the beginning of the conference--whereas most of the substantive negotiating will probably happen toward the end--the White House is dispatching a cadre of its top environmental officials to showcase the Obama climate resume during the summit.
The U.S. will host a series of side events during the conference, where U.S. officials will speak about various dimensions of climate policy on which they've each been working. Here's the list, released today by the White House, of the events and their American keynote speakers:
· Wednesday, December 9th: Taking Action at Home, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
· Thursday, December 10th: New Energy Future: the role of public lands in clean
energy production and carbon capture, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
· Friday, December 11th: Clean Energy Jobs in a Global Marketplace, Commerce
Secretary Gary Locke
· Monday, December 14th: Leading in Energy Efficiency and Renewables, Energy
Secretary Steven Chu
· Tuesday, December 15th: Clean Energy Investments: creating opportunities for rural
economies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
· Thursday, December 17th: Backing Up International Agreement with Domestic
Action, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and Assistant to the President Carol Browner
"I think it reflects two things, one, this is a big moment for climate talks and there's a lot of political will on the table, and two, the U.S. administration is seriously committed to locking this down," Environmental Defense Fund International Climate Media Director Andrea Welsh said, via email, of the administration's lineup of high-level speakers.
The U.S. will also set up a physical "U.S. Center" at the conference, to provide an "interactive forum" to show off cap-and-trade, renewable energy investments in the stimulus, automobile efficiency standards, the administration's regulatory framework for offshore energy development, and anything else the administration has to brag about when it comes to energy and environmental policy.
Climate change has become a go-to issue for the president when it comes to his international dealings, as Matt Cooper noted after Obama's press conference with the visiting Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. It's also been a way for Obama to distinguish himself from his predecessor, who departed from the world stage by telling the July 2008 G8 summit in Japan, "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
Since then, Obama's forays onto the geopolitical podium have been laced with climate-change pledges and entreaties. His speech to the UN General Assembly in New York delved into it, and he trumpeted the "historic recognition [of climate change] on behalf of the American people and their government" in a speech to the UN's climate summit the day before.
Environmentalists will cheer Obama's presence at the summit, as they cheered the election of a president that sees things, basically, the way they do when it comes to belief in climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama seems to like his role as the usherer of a new era in U.S. climate paradigm, and his efforts to get out in front of the issue on the world stage will continue in Copenhagen, even after he's left to collect his Nobel.