UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and Other Developments 
Excerpts provided by David Stirpe, Director 
The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Responsibility


As reported in a previous FSSA white paper, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was held in December 2009.  The intent of this meeting was to address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, including the commitments by major developing countries to begin emission reduction efforts.  The conference also addressed de-linkage of some of the major developing countries, most notably China, from the "pay to play" diplomacy model.  By that we mean in order to participate in future climate change agreements that are legally binding, large carbon emitters in developing countries, such as China and India, expect financial incentives to be paid by developing countries, primarily the United States.

The Final Result

After a two-week process and appearances by top U.S. officials, including President Obama, the Copenhagen conference failed to agree on a legally binding global document to reduce global greenhouse- gas emissions.

The key result of the conference was the decision to "take note" of the Copenhagen Accord, which calls upon nations to submit their commitments, both reductions and financial  contributions, by January 31, 2010. Additionally, the decision was taken to extend the work of the ad hoc working groups on long-term cooperative actions and the Kyoto Protocol.  All of this activity however is non-binding, and it should be noted that up to this point in time nothing significant has been reported since the Copenhagen meeting.

It is important to note that the success of the conference hinged on negotiations between China and the United States.  In the end, however, China made clear that Western diplomats would not push it into additional commitments.  Significantly, China acknowledged the need to contribute to the solution and also agreed to withdraw from the old "pay to play" dynamic.  But China and other large emitters, such as India and Brazil, made no firm commitments.  There was also a major problem regarding the issue of transparent monitoring, reporting and verification.

Climate Change Meeting 2010

Copenhagen only reached a political agreement and not a full treaty.  The supporters of climate change hope that a legally binding accord will be reached at the next major climate change meeting at COP 16. This next meeting is scheduled for Cancun, Mexico, November 29 through December 10, 2010.

Will COP 16 in Cancun result in a concrete agreement that is legally binding? It is too early to predict.


There is a grass roots effort to put in place an initiative on the California Ballot that would repeal AB 32 and the Golden State's version of a cap-and-trade carbon tax.

With the California jobless rate hovering around 12% plus, 2.25 million Californians are unemployed and the state government is broke, climate change issues tend to have less priority with voters. Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue has begun collecting signatures for "The Global Warming Solutions Act," a ballot initiative that would suspend California's cap-and-trade scheme until the unemployment rate falls below 5.5%. His intention is to get it placed on the November ballot.


Perhaps the most significant US activity during the Copenhagen Conference may have been the finalization of the EPA endangerment rule.  This rule provides EPA with the authority to implement caps, and maybe some trade, but not offsets.  EPA has admitted that a cap and trade system would not work very well without a robust offset component.  The program offices at EPA have also been asked to develop climate regulatory agendas based on existing statutory authority.

U.S. Senate Legislative Activity

One development in the Senate to watch is from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  She has introduced a resolution of disapproval that, if passed and enacted into law, would overturn EPA's Endangerment Finding and remove EPA's regulatory authority to use the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The resolution is co-sponsored by 35 Republicans and 3 Democrats.  The two-page resolution would also need to be passed by the House and signed by the President in order to become law. We believe that it requires a simple majority of 51 Senate votes to pass and is not subject to a filibuster.

Now that the health care bill has been signed into law by President Obama, there is renewed interest in the Senate passing climate change legislation, perhaps even this year. Senate staff members are currently drafting amendments to Senate Bill S.1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.  This activity will enable the bi-partisan trio of Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman to release a compromise version of the climate change bill in the next several weeks.  Environmental and industrial groups have recently signaled their support for the proposed climate change legislation.  In a related move, Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist at the US Chamber of Commerce, told reporters last week that the work being done by the three senators was "largely in synch" with the business group's views. Josten stopped short of fully endorsing the bill, but following a recent meeting with the Senator's he struck a markedly different tone to the outright opposition to previous versions of the bill that the Chamber adopted last year.


At this point in time three different climate actions are in motion to possibly impact the US business community; a very modest international treaty, a potentially more aggressive legislative approach, or a draconian Clean Air Act implementation scheme that the endangerment finding has now triggered. However, new revelations regarding the quality of the science supporting climate change, and ongoing political battles involving healthcare and the economy, may place many of these proposed sweeping economic regulations on hold at least for this year.