Center for American Progress

International Climate Negotiations and U.S. Clean Energy Legislation
Press Release

International Climate Negotiations and U.S. Clean Energy Legislation

A press conference call hosted by the Center for American Progress Featured Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen and CAP experts Andrew Light and Daniel J. Weiss discussed international climate negotiations, the Danish Two Step Proposal in Copenhagen and prospects for U.S. Clean Energy Legislation.

Listen to audio of the call here.

Ambassador Petersen said:

“We have seen a surprisingly strong willingness to participate at the highest level in the summit in Copenhagen. We have about 98 heads of government signed up. They will only show up in Copenhagen because they think it will be a political success.”

“Together with many countries, I think the U.S. leadership, in Congress and the Administration, by the President himself, has been exercised with quite a lot of vigor and therefore is a very important building block in this process to create this momentum to come to a Copenhagen agreement.”

“The second step, next year, will of course have to be the one that does all the very important work in extracting from the political deal the legally binding, detailed language. Hopefully, that’s going to be much [easier] and doable with the overarching, comprehensive political deal. In conclusion, I think our approach was, given the circumstances and history of the topic in many different countries, the only real realistic, pragmatic approach of getting where we want…at this time, where there seems to be a unique window of opportunity.”

Andrew Light said:

“What we have to realize is that [after the] Bush administration [agreed in 2007 that the 2009 UN climate meeting would be the deadline for producing a success to the Kyoto Protocol they then] proceeded to do absolutely nothing to move along the prospects of success in Copenhagen for a year…After Barack Obama had already been elected, the [Bush] administration continued to make sure that there was no significant progress towards success in Copenhagen.”

“For President Obama to now, essentially, go ahead of the process in the U.S. Congress….in terms of the congressional deliberations. [To] make a commitment that the United States will rejoin the world as soon as we get this first step of the process done after Copenhagen is an enormous and significant commitment, and truly does signal the leadership this administration is willing to take on this process.”

Daniel J. Weiss said:

“There’s an old saying; laws are like sausages—if you like either one don’t watch how they are made. And this saying is particularly true in the United States Congress. It’s going to take time for the U.S. Senate to assemble 60 votes to pass comprehensive global warming legislation. Fortunately, the House of Representatives has already acted. They have different rules that make it easier for the majority to move. Their bill would achieve a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas pollutions, below 2005 levels from putting a declining limit on pollution. In addition, there are a number of other policies that would achieve an additional reduction, and so according to at least one estimate, the House legislation would achieve about a 28% reduction in global warming pollution below 2005 levels, or about a 13 or 14 percent reduction below 1990 levels.”

"…The obituary for global warming legislation has been written almost everyday since President Obama took office. At every stage, many observers have said that at every stage that it’s not going to pass. Before the House committee, before the House floor, before the Senate environment committee vote–the obituaries for this bill will be continued to be written everyday until President Obama signs it sometime next year.”

“It’s important to note that the transformation from a high carbon to a low carbon economy is one of the central elements of President Obama’s domestic agenda and a big part of the efforts to help the American economy recover. President Obama understands that the country that develops and manufacturers the clean energy technologies that the world is going to want in the 21st century are going to be major economic players. I believe that if the health care process leads to successful passage of health care reform, that that will actually increase his political capital and his ability to influence the global warming debate.  Once the Senate completes health care reform, there will be an improvement in his polls and it will give elected officials the confidence that he can lead them through safely.”

Listen to audio of the call here.

To speak with our experts, please contact Suzi Emmerling at 202-481-8224 or