US Should not Hamper Global Climate Action


9-24-09, 11:15 am

Original source: Global Times (China)

Thomas Friedman has a problem. As he describes in his bestseller Hot, Flat, and Crowded, while many activists advocate a low-carbon lifestyle in his Maryland neighborhood, he had to give up his attempt to install a couple of solar panels on his house because doing so is illegal under a local ordinance.

Astonished at China's high efficiency in carrying out the 'green collar revolution,' Friedman said, 'I sometimes wish that America could be 'China for a day' .'

Friedman's problem is the problem of the US, and of the world at large.

With the upcoming Copenhagen climate change conference less than three months away, global leaders, gathering at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York City this week, have a crucial opportunity to bridge their divide before hammering out a successor pact on climate change to the Kyoto Protocol at Copenhagen.

While Chinese President Hu Jintao is going to deliver a 'sincere and committed' message to the world at the UN by detailing China's environmental policies to fight global warming, the US government seems deadlocked with the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the proposed 'cap-and-trade' system to put a price on carbon emissions.

If US President Barack Obama fails to push strongly for the Senate to pass the domestic bill before December, how credible will the commitment be even if he signs a pact at Copenhagen?

It is certainly a welcome move for the Obama administration to change the shortsighted stance of the Bush administration on climate change, but to tackle the old problem, greater efforts should be made by the new administration.

China's firm pledge and prompt actions to responsibly take a low-carbon path for development has left the US in an embarrassing situation of shouldering the world's blame.

China has reiterated its long-held stance to share 'common but differentiated' responsibilities and its willingness to cooperate with other nations in fighting climate change, and will continue to do so at the Copenhagen conference.

Ironically, the other largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world has lagged behind, with neither practical domestic measures to address the real issue, nor substantial aid to help developing nations fight climate change.

The political mood of some US legislators is like this: An environmentally-friendly system sounds good, but is more costly. Why not letting developing nations take the leap into it and pay the price first?

But the longer we wait, the more costly the system will be. Our planet is so ecologically fragile that global climate action must be taken promptly.

In this critical time, with the world economy struggling to step out of its slump, climate change is not only a crisis that may bring disaster, but also an opportunity that may bring a 'green revolution' and propel the economy in a sustainable direction. Obama has realized that, and now enforcement is the key.

Friedman stated that in a world that is increasingly hot, flat and crowded, an overhaul of the groundwork must be done.

No nation can afford to hold up the global agenda of fighting climate change, which could bring catastrophic damage to all human beings. The US is certainly no exception.