Last night the US State Department held a briefing for the NGO’s and U.S. civil society here in Copenhagen. This is going to happen every other day for the rest of COP15. The U.S. Youth wrote up a series of questions and got there early.
As soon as we walked it we took front row and joined tons of other youth in the crowd. Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, started the meeting by giving a brief synopsis of where the negotiations are at, what the U.S. sees happening and what we should expect. Then Administrator Lisa Jackson, Chief of the EPA, joined the conversation, telling us about the landmark announcement yesterday by the US government that greenhouse gases are indeed harmful to human health (duh). Then they took questions from the audience.
Youth owned this. We asked 7 out of the 9 questions that Mr. Pershing took. We asked tough questions about the U.S.’s official position on 350ppm, paying our climate debt, and how the recent EPA announcement will strengthen the U.S. targets. I started off the questions by introducing myself as a U.S. youth delegate from SustainUs and pointed out that I was joined here by 500 American youth representing thousands back in the U.S. working for climate justice. Then I asked about the Danish Text, which you should read up on (interesting stuff).
Basically, this is where we are at according to Mr. Pershing- There are two tracks of the negotiations and they need to come together. The U.S. wants them to come together and fast. They are afraid that a binding legal agreement would take too long to get passed by government (and probably never pass ours) for us to make the immediate change we need to see. They think that we shouldn’t look for another commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol because we don’t know if it even resulted in any change (plus we are not signatories of it and will never be). However, our long term targets are right where they need to be. In the short term the U.S. is working with the 110 heads of states committed to coming. They want the targets to be decided by what the individual states can commit to, through existing laws and institutions. The State Department is working under constraints of Congress and is pushing those limits. Mr. Pershing seemed to believe that we could go even further if there were commitments from other countries, especially those like China, India, and Brazil, who have the capacity and technology to advance the climate fight on other fronts.
He seemed pretty upset that we were being so hard on him and the administration. Hey, its tough love buddy. I definitely see the progress from the EPA announcement and Obama’s attendance to our green investment in the US and push for $10 billion/year for adaptation. But the reason we have gotten this far is because young people are asking for it! For us to reach the real numbers that science tells and and that our survival demands, we need to keep up the pressure!