Saturday, April 11, 2009

Swedish Report Says U.S. Has Reached "Critical Political Tipping Point" Regarding Climate Politics

The Obama Administration has "already begun to demonstrate its seriousness about climate change through actions being taken within U.S. borders," according to a new report commissioned by the Swedish government.

The report, "Sea Change: U.S. Climate Policy Prospects Under the Obama Administration, written by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), was prepared in the run-up to Sweden's July 1-December 31 presidency of the European Union.  In this role, Sweden will speak on behalf of the EU at the Copenhagen U.N. climate conference in December.  Based on Sweden's historical performance in the EU presidency, the U.S., and the rest of the world, should expect a well-focused and effectively-argued case being made on behalf of the EU.
The report notes the "dramatic shift" in U.S. climate politics in terms of the executive branch and points out that additional changes are taking place at regional, state, and local levels.  "In short, the conditions for adopting and implementing forceful measures for addressing climate change look far better than at any time previously."
While describing this as "good news," the report goes on to caution, "Nevertheless, some of the important circumstances that condition the development of U.S. climate politics remain stubbornly fixed.  Numerous domestic structural, institutional, and political hurdles remain in place.  These make it unlikely that the most comprehensive measures now being pursued, such as an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, will have been adopted by both House and Senate and signed by the president prior to the [December talks]."
Despite the report's careful analysis of the American political situation, it seems to have missed one key point: the role that money plays in American politics.  Regardless of the merits of the underlying case for cap-and-trade, the fact is that the big industrial interests will be in the shadows currying favor and support.  
Consequently, will the U.S. join the Europeans in the tough fight ahead in terms of climate change?  Time (and unfortunately probably money) will tell.

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