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Jan 28

After I wrote my earlier post on countries that submitted their emissions targets under the Copenhagen Accord, I visited the tally sheet maintained by the US Climate Action Network and noticed that they had a copy of the official US letter.

Dated today, the letter commits the US to a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2020 “in conformity with anticipated US energy and climate legislation, recognizing that the final target will be reported to the Secretariat in light of enacted legislation.”

There was also no mention of the Copenhagen Accord fitting into a legal process or treaty-building exercise.

The letter does say that the US expects other countries to meet the 31 January deadline for reporting their emissions under the Accord, contradicting Yvo de Boer’s description of Sunday as a “soft ” deadline.

The US response is not a surprise.  The Obama Administration gives itself an “out” if Congress fails to pass legislation or passes a climate bill with a weaker target.

Failure to mention steps beyond the Accord suggests to me that the US is not enthusiastic about the viability of the UN process.  But the reiteration of the 31 January deadline means that the US doesn’t want other countries to delay and that they want to be able to point to positive steps towards addressing global climate change.

Like I said, none of this is surprising; but it shows us how the battle lines are beginning to solidify and what to expect in the way of points of contention as international negotiations continue over the next few months.

On the domestic front, assuming that major emitters (especially India and China) meet the deadline for reporting their targets under the Accord, the Obama Administration will surely use this progress to pressure the Senate into passing an energy bill.

Although Obama didn’t utter the words “cap and trade” during his state of the union speech last night, he did hit the “clean energy/jobs” angle pretty heavy.  Large emitter endorsement of the Accord will likely help the Administration in moving climate and energy legislation.

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