Whoever wins the 2012 presidential election will have to take an active role in international climate-change negotiations, according to many of National Journal’s Energy and Environment Insiders.
Asked how important it will be for the next (or current) president to keep America relevant in these negotiations, more than 60 percent of Insiders said that it would be either “Very Important” or “Somewhat Important.” Thirty-two percent of Insiders said this job will be “Very Important,” while nearly 30 percent said it would be “Somewhat Important.”
“The U.S. needs to play a productive role in international climate-change negotiations consistent with its economic leadership, but does not have to be desperate for a deal,” one Insider said.
Though most Insiders said that America needs to remain an active part of these negotiations, many also conceded that this will likely be difficult if a Republican gets elected.
GOP front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have both been skeptical of climate science in their own way.
While Romney has fallen into the camp of those who dispute climate science by questioning whether human activity is a contributing factor, Perry has simply said that the science of climate change itself is “not proven.” Both have questioned the use of cap-and-trade, the role of the Environmental Protection Agency, and have vowed to curb the EPA’s involvement in issuing climate change rules.
Others involved in the GOP primary, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, have even said they would close the agency’s doors. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman, the only Republican candidate to firmly stand behind climate-change science, has all but faded as a candidate for 2012.
Despite the overwhelming anti-climate-science tone in the GOP primary, Insiders say that a Republican president would have to swallow it for the sake of international cooperation and America’s economic future.
“Regardless whether the next president believes that climate change is taking place, the rest of the world is prepared to move forward without the U.S. If we are not at the table, American business will be severely disadvantaged,” one Insider said.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” another echoed.
Still, a combined nearly 40 percent said that America’s continued involvement in global climate-change negotiations is somewhat unimportant or very unimportant.
“Multilateral negotiations on climate are going the way of the World’s Fairs. They still hold ’em, but no one knows about it or cares,” one Insider said, echoing the words of others who argued that the United Nations climate talks have turned into “nothing more than a show.”
“After this administration's gratuitous failure in Copenhagen, the international climate dialogue has become a farce,” one Insider said.
Obama himself hasn’t had the easiest path when it comes to climate change negotiations.
At the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, Obama said that the United States would lead the way in forging a climate treaty, starting with some of its own commitments at home. But even with a Democratic Congress, the climate bill fell apart in the Senate. International climate talks closed in Cancún in 2010 without making substantial progress. Since then, Obama’s EPA has been struggling to put in place a number of Clean Air Act rules, while regularly being called in front of congressional hearings and oversight panels.
In a month, climate talks resume in Durban, South Africa.
Despite its importance, however, climate change will not be the most pressing international energy issue that the next president will have to tackle in the years to come.
Most Insiders—32 percent—said that the most pressing issue will be U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"The arrival of the 7 billionth human on earth is a stark reminder that international demand for oil will continue to grow for years to come, especially in developing countries. Coupled with the perennial instability of oil producing countries in the mid-east, this will ensure that price and reliability of supply will consume the bulk of the president's time in this space," said one Insider.
"Global oil issues will always be the most important and relevant issues because [they] directly [impact] our consumers' bottom line," said another.
How important will it be for the next (or current) president to keep America relevant in international climate-change negotiations?
- Very Important 32%
- Somewhat Important 29%
- Somewhat Unimportant 19.5%
- Very Unimportant 19.5%
“It’s BAAAAACK. The trade implications of climate policy are already showing up at our eastern border (air transit), western border (solar dumping case), and northern border (A.B. 32 vs. British Columbia).”
“Whatever policy tool the majority of countries chooses to use—cap-and-trade, carbon tax, low-carbon technology incentives, or others—it will make markets in which [the] U.S. industry will want to participate.”
“Regardless whether the next president believes that climate change is taking place, the rest of the world is prepared to move forward without the U.S. If we are not at the table, American business will be severely disadvantaged.”
“This is still the most important environmental and economic challenge of the generation.”
“Even though there’s not even a sliver of a chance that Congress will take action on mandatory GHG controls any time soon, presumably the EPA will still be moving ahead. It’s therefore important that the U.S. continue to be at the table in these international meetings.”
“After the euro collapses, who in the wide world is going to care about climate change?”
“The U.S. needs to play a productive role in international climate change negotiations consistent with its economic leadership, but does not have to be desperate for a deal.”
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
“It’s all about jobs.”
“This is only going to be a priority if Obama gets reelected or Romney gets elected. The remaining GOP candidates have properly recognized that the only thing the U.S. gets out of agreeing to an international climate negotiation is more restrictions on our energy use and higher energy prices for everyday Americans.”
“Multilateral negotiations on climate are going the way of the World’s Fairs. They still hold ’em, but no one knows about it or cares.”
“The entire process has been nothing more than a show for years....”
What will be the most pressing international energy issue that the president will have to tackle in the years to come?
- Dependence on foreign oil 32%
- Climate Change 10%
- Competing in the clean-energy race 29%
- Other 29%
Dependence on foreign oil
"I think this and the next President will have to answer to the American people about why we are not doing more to make use of our own abundant resources."
"Gas prices still "driving" the energy conversation at the kitchen table. Dependence on foreign oil exacerbates the problem."
"The transition from oil is inevitable and the countries that manage it best win!"
"The impacts of climate change are becoming more apparent each week and threatening not only ecosystems but also human communities and national security. Denying the problem won't make it go away."
Competing in the clean-energy race
"Clean energy and innovation are key pathways to respond to both an energy independence and climate climate. If we want to win the race, we need a pathway like this or we will watch others quickly pass us by."
"Effectively competing in the clean energy race is a triple play --- it reduces dependence on foreign oil, addresses climate change and strengthens our economy by creating jobs and spurring investment at home. But, if we continue to lag behind other countries it is hard to see how we effectively address the other priorities. With a global clean energy sector that is rapidly expanding, it is an opportunity a President of any stripe should recognize and champion."
"The future of U.S. industrial competitiveness does not rely on running 50-70 year old coal plants indefinitely, it turns on whether the U.S. develops and deploys the next generation of energy technology."
"The most pressing energy issue facing the president will be stopping attempts to throttle our domestic (and Canadian) fossil-fuel industries."
"Competing with the growing global demand for reliable energy (coal, oil, natural gas) from emerging nations like China and India."
"Assuring access to a secure energy supply at a reasonable price as worldwide demand for resources expands dramatically."
This article appears in the November 2, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.