Detailed Actions to Restore America’s Global Leadership on Global Warming


Restoring America's leadership on global warming is no easy task. US leadership has been lost over a sustained period as the current Administration has failed to make progress on global warming. (Sadly this is time we don't have.) So, becoming a leader isn't something that can be done overnight, but it will need to start from day one. President-elect Obama has already signaled that he will Restore American Leadership on Global Warming. So, what more does he have to do?

Well, a coalition of groups -- including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) -- has just released a detailed plan Transition to Green which outlines actions for the new Administration and Congress on environmental issues. This plan covers a strategy for global warming (under the "crosscutting issues" header) and detailed recommendations for each of the key agencies that deal with environmental issues (including international global warming issues under the header "Department of State" and "Department of the Treasury").

So, what are the main actions that the Administration and Congress can take to restore American leadership on global warming as the world works to get international agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark (December 2009)? Here are our recommendations.

The US needs to demonstrate action by setting mandatory limits on global warming pollution through new legislation and implementation of existing laws. This would include working with Congress to pass legislation in 2009 that establishes a mandatory limit that reduces US global warming pollution consistent with keeping further warming below 2° F, including ambitious domestic reduction targets for 2020 and 2050, other policies to make additional reductions at home and abroad, and a prompt science-based review to accelerate reductions if necessary.

Work with other nations to reach a new climate treaty that keeps further warming below 2° F at the Copenhagen climate summit at the end of 2009. US leadership in moving legislation to cap emissions is an important first step, but the US will also need to work with other countries to establish an equitable U.N. climate treaty. A main focus will need to be working with key developing countries -- such as China, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, and South Africa -- on emissions reductions. But they'll also need to work with other developed countries (e.g., the EU, Canada, Japan, and Russia) on emissions reduction targets and with the most vulnerable developing countries on adaptation. These bilateral efforts could be integrated into the "G20" dialogue which recently focused on the global financial crisis and should feed into the international negotiations. The U.S. will need to interject its proposals into the debate and outline its positions on key elements very quickly as the negotiations are ongoing. Continued...