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Time to get back to work on climate – real action begins at home

With the Copenhagen Accord “noted” by the UNFCCC, and many full planes departed from the only airport in the world (to my knowledge) with teak flooring – not to mention gorgeous mid-century modern furniture and lighting – the time for real work on climate change begins again.

It had been obvious for some time that even if a legally binding agreement were inked in Copenhagen, it would consist largely of a compilation of the unilateral offers of major economies. We didn’t exactly get that out of COP 15, but we did get something that looks roughly like it – albeit with objections from many developing countries and without language that “binds” countries to compliance with its requirements (but see Canadian and Australian non-compliance with another legally binding agreement – the Kyoto Protocol).

Now it’s time for those of us in the United States (and Australia too) to get back to the real work of putting our money where our mouth is. It’s all well and good for our government to decry the reluctance of China to submit to international monitoring and verification of its GHG mitigation accomplishments. But for these objections to have any credence at all, we have to actually do something comprehensive ourselves.

Right now, we have a bit of a credibility problem on this issue, our charismatic President’s pronouncements not withstanding. Hopefully, the Senate democrats’ now demonstrated ability to cobble together 60 votes on major legislation is a harbinger of things to come for climate legislation.

In any case, it was a necessary political precondition for moving ahead on the Kerry-Graham process. Now all the Senate has to do is conclude its discussion on reform of the financial system before climate change comes to the top of the agenda, hopefully not too close to the November 2010 elections or moderate dems may feel too vulnerable to risk a “yes” vote.

The exercise of thinking through the US Senate agenda helps one to understand the Chinese skepticism of the US negotiating position at Copenhagen. Hopefully we will prove the doubts of our partners across the Pacific unfounded. No doubt that a little positive coverage on Fox wouldn’t hurt our chances.

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