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UN Climate Summit Long on Rhetoric, Short on Substance

obama unWorld leaders threw about lofty notions for reducing carbon emissions – but little in the way of concrete proposals – at the Sept. 22 United Nations Climate Summit.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best coverage from around the Web.

With about 70 days until the Copenhagen climate talks, there is too little of substance being discussed, critics said in a New York Times story. While President Obama said that the U.S. once played down the idea of climate change, he said his administration recognizes the need for action. But he said forging concensus on the matter will come slowly.

China, meanwhile, pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity, or the rate of emissions in proportion to economic growth, reports Bloomberg. Chinese President Hu Jintao did not put a number on the reduction, but said the nation would “endeavor to cut carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level.”

China and the U.S. together account for about 40 percent of global emissions, with each emitting about 20 percent of the total.

China plans to boost to 15 percent the proportion of non-fossil fuels used in primary energy consumption. China also said it will work to improve energy efficiency and forest conservation.

Another story in the New York Times took a swipe at the carbon footprint generated by the UN meeting itself, with so many dignitaries flying so many miles to participate in a meeting that generally yielded little progress. Still, the article noted that the UN bought carbon offsets to mitigate the emissions caused by so much travel.

Environmental organizations were lukewarm in their response to Obama’s speech to the UN.

“The speech as a whole represents a missed opportunity for the U.S. to take a leadership role and signal to the rest of the world that it is serious about tackling the threat of climate change. While other countries announced specific targets and timetables, including China, Japan and the Maldives, President Obama did not address these critical elements,” said Keya Chatterjee, Acting Director of World Wildlife Fund‘s climate program.

“We need a binding global agreement to tackle the looming crisis of climate change before it is too late, and the prospects of a global deal are much better if the United States – a leading emitter of global warming pollution worldwide for decades – takes binding action now to clean up its act and set us on the course towards the clean energy jobs of the 21st century,” said 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell.

“Real action means using real political capital to push a clean energy jobs bill through the United States Senate in the coming months.  That, more than any speech at the United Nations, will show the world that this time we are serious,” Caldwell continued.

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians continued to signal their unwillingness to support cap and trade legislation. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said he was skeptical China would agree to any sort of GHG limit, and that if the U.S. does it would put the domestic economy on a track to ruin, reports the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

“At the end of the day, (the Chinese) will continue to build their coal-fired furnaces, one a week, indefinitely,” Lugar said. “Why? Because the political existence of those regimes depends upon delivering energy and power where it’s required, come hell or high water.”

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One thought on “UN Climate Summit Long on Rhetoric, Short on Substance

  1. Long on rhetoric and short on substance? And you’re surprised? That’s what usually comes of these gatherings. A good beginning would be for them to stop holding these useless conferences that do more harm than good.

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