December 5, 2009
Obama Shifts His Visit to Last Day of Climate Conference
By JOHN M. BRODER
WASHINGTON — Citing progress on many issues, the White House said Friday that President Obama had shifted the date he would appear at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen to Dec. 18, the last scheduled day.
In a written statement, it said the president believed that he could have a more decisive impact by appearing at the end of the 12-day conference, when as many as 100 other heads of state are scheduled to show up, rather than next Wednesday as originally planned.
The original date was timed to coincide with the president’s trip to Oslo on Thursday to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Administration officials still acknowledge that the meeting in Denmark will not produce a binding international treaty, as had earlier been hoped, but rather an interim political deal and a promise to reconvene next year to work toward a formal treaty. The White House said it believed that it was still possible to conclude a “meaningful Copenhagen accord” in which all countries pledged to take immediate action to address climate change.
In the past two weeks, the United States, China and India have all announced targets for reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases.
The White House said Mr. Obama had discussed the matter this week with the leaders of France, Britain, Australia and Germany. Many world leaders and environmental advocates had been urging the president to attend later in the conference as a symbol of his commitment to a successful outcome.
“Based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the president believes that continued U.S. leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on Dec. 18 rather than on Dec. 9,” the White House statement said.
“There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the president’s commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome,” the statement added.
Among the issues still under consideration is a “fast-start” fund of roughly $10 billion to be financed by wealthy nations to help poorer nations adapt to a changing climate and convert to less-polluting forms of energy. There is no agreement yet on how the fund should be structured and who should pay into it, but it is clear that this is one area in which Mr. Obama thinks he can be useful.
“The United States will pay its fair share of that amount and other countries will make substantial commitments as well,” the White House said. “In Copenhagen, we also need to address the need for financing in the longer term to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.
“Providing this assistance is not only a humanitarian imperative — it’s an investment in our common security, as no climate change accord can succeed if it does not help all countries reduce their emissions,” the statement said.