A Little Perspective On Copenhagen
December 14, 2009

There are literally thousands of reporters in Copenhagen right now, so every dramatic loop and whorl in the climate talks is, naturally, getting inflated to epic proportions and analyzed accordingly. But if you haven't been following every last twist, Dave Roberts lets you know how little you're actually missing: Despite the drama, however, at the end of week one we are, in substantive terms, roughly where we’ve been for a while now.

Is $500 Billion In Foreign Aid Possible? (Maybe...)
December 14, 2009

This week, National Journal is hosting a useful series of Copenhagen-related roundtable debates that are worth checking out. In this one, Rep. Ed Markey asks how wealthier countries should help poorer ones tackle global warming. It's a timely question, since this is perhaps the biggest quagmire in the climate talks right now. A recent U.N. report estimated that developing countries would need $500 billion to $600 billion per year to get on a path of low-carbon growth, as well as to adapt to a hotter world.

Tuvalu Flexes Its Muscles
December 11, 2009

Everyone knew that the world's tiny island nations would play a visible role at Copenhagen—after all, with sea levels rising, they arguably have the most to lose from a warming planet. But no one predicted that Tuvalu, of all countries, would single-handedly grind the climate talks to a halt. That's what happened this week, after Tuvalu's repeated insistence on an even stronger, binding treaty dissolved the ongoing discussions in acrimony. The main disagreement between small island states and developing nations like China and India concerns the "two-track" system at Copenhagen.

Three Ways The Copenhagen Talks Could Succeed (Or Go Bust)
December 03, 2009

Given that there's virtually no chance a finished climate treaty will come out of the upcoming talks in Copenhagen, one might be forgiven for asking what, exactly, the world's diplomats are actually going to do these next two weeks in Denmark. Already, further talks are scheduled for next year—including yet another big climate summit in Mexico City in 2010.

Blame Canada
December 02, 2009

When did Canada start acting like Saudi Arabia when it comes to climate change? As George Monbiot notes in the Guardian this week, the normally good-natured country now has the dubious distinction of being the only country to ratify Kyoto and then formally renege on its commitments. Not only that, but Canada's increasingly trying to obstruct the Copenhagen climate talks. So what's behind this shift? Probably the country's vast tar sands reserves, which have attracted increasing interest since around 2006: Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil.

Is Europe Really On Track To Meet Its Kyoto Goals?
November 16, 2009

There's a fairly basic question about climate policy that gets asked a lot: Can a cap-and-trade program actually cut carbon-dioxide emissions? Set aside the question of cost and the endless debate over whether a mythical carbon tax would be sleeker. Can a cap on carbon actually do what it's supposed to do? Right now, the best example of an up-and-running cap-and-trade system is in Europe. And, for years, the continent was seen as a hopeless failure at cutting emissions.

The Ghosts Of Clinton Haunt The Climate Debate, Too
October 05, 2009

It's not just on health care where Obama's obsessed (maybe too obsessed) with the lessons of the Clinton years. As Juliet Eilperin reports in The Washington Post today, his climate team also agonizes over the memory of 1997, when Clinton and Gore agreed to the Kyoto Protocol abroad, and then watched as the Senate cudgeled the climate treaty with a 97-0 vote: Like most members of President Obama's climate team, David Sandalow was one of President Bill Clinton's negotiators in Kyoto.

Death By Square Bracket
September 29, 2009

With the big Copenhagen climate summit looming in a few months, negotiators have just made public an early, 200-page draft of the global treaty that will, in theory, replace the Kyoto Protocol. But that's only if an endless yarn of differences can get untangled. The current draft is very, very far from official, and still has plenty of sections couched in square brackets—which signals issues still up for squabbling. The bracketmania is a little unnerving to look at.

Why the Senate Delay Won't Kill off Global Climate Talks
September 02, 2009

As the odds that the Senate will pass a climate bill this year grow dim, the major question is what this means for the climate talks at Copenhagen in December. It's now looking increasingly unlikely that world leaders will be able to finish up a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009, and some U.N. officials are already lowering expectations. "Copenhagen has to be viewed as a very important step," said U.N. Development Chief Helen Clark this week. "Would it be overoptimistic to say that it would be the final one? Of course.

Is China's Climate Position Softening?
August 06, 2009

At this point, we can make out the trench lines in the ongoing talks over a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. China and India don't want to adopt hard caps on greenhouse-gas emissions just yet.