Actually, the sun set here in Copenhagen several hours ago, but it seems to have also set for the COP. A new accord appears to have been reached this evening, but it falls short of most expectations. This morning, President Obama flew in to deliver a disappointing speech in front of the UN and then ducked through a closed-door to spend the rest of the afternoon in private talks with a handful of world leaders. Shortly after, accusations flew from other countries that these secret talks violated the democratic process necessary for the UN to function.
After a long day of waiting on the edge of our seats, Obama held another brief press conference to say that his meetings had been “successful.” However, he had little substantive points to offer. Needless to say, our team feels let down that Copenhagen failed to be the shining moment in history when the world united to focus on our common future. Most of us leave here tomorrow feeling disappointed and exhausted, but we have a renewed sense of commitment to gain ground on the domestic front.
Even if the United States was unable to be the leader during these talks, the long road ahead of us is clear. We hope that our readers have enjoyed our thoughts and observations during our time at the COP-15. Even in disappointment, we each feel privileged to have been here to witness this historical process.
Three cheers for Lesley McAllister! In a recent article, this empirically-minded law professor explains why so many cap-and-trade programs have not made any dent in the emissions they were meant to control (34 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 395, 2009). Ever since I read this article a few weeks ago, I have been pondering its implications for the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen. I’d like to highlight just a few of the lessons Professor McAllister gleans from a careful study of four existing cap-and-trade programs in the U.S. and Europe, and I hope she will forgive me for oversimplifying and injecting my own views with abandon. Continue reading
A coal plant and playground
The conversation about climate change revolves to a great extent around coal-fired power plants in the U.S., China, and around the world because of their enormous emissions of carbon dioxide and the alarming rate at which new plants are being proposed and constructed. Today was a day for absorbing many of the other ugly truths about coal. Some students and I toured coal country in Western Pennsylvania with the help of community activists fighting bravely against entrenched adversaries. We watched in horror as an arsenic-laden mist rained down on our car while we drove past an enormous coal plant in a small rural town. Our jaws dropped even further as we drove for miles around a 1,300-acre toxic fly ash dump that loomed behind soft earthen dams and threatened to bury entire neighborhoods with toxic sludge when heavy rains come. Continue reading