Confidential Document Reveals Obama's Hardline US Climate Talk Strategy

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Confidential Document Reveals Obama's Hardline US Climate Talk Strategy

Document outlines key messages the Obama administration wants to convey in the run-up to UN climate talks in Mexico in November

by
John Vidal in Bonn

The document outlines key messages the Obama administration wants to convey in the run-up to UN climate talks in Mexico in November. (Photograph: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

A document accidentally left on a European hotel computer and passed
to the Guardian reveals the US government's increasingly controversial
strategy in the global UN climate talks.

Titled Strategic communications objectives and dated 11 March 2010, it outlines the key messages that the Obama administration
wants to convey to its critics and to the world media in the run-up to
the vital UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in November. (You can read
the document text below).

Top of the list of objectives is
to: "Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in
UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change."
It also talks of "managing expectations" of the outcome of the Cancun
meeting and bypassing traditional media outlets by using podcasts and
"intimate meetings" with the chief US negotiator to disarm the US's
harsher critics.

But the key phrase is in paragraph three
where the author writes: "Create a clear understanding of the CA's
[Copenhagen accord's] standing and the importance of operationalising
ALL elements."

This is the clearest signal that the US
will refuse to negotiate on separate elements of the controversial
accord, but intends to push it through the UN process as a single "take
it or leave it" text. The accord is the last-minute agreement reached
at the chaotic Copenhagen summit
in December. Over 110 countries are now "associated" with the accord
but it has not been adopted by the 192-nation UN climate convention.
The US has denied aid to some countries that do not support the accord.

The "take it or leave it" approach divided countries in Bonn this weekend
and alienated most developing countries including China, India and
Brazil who want to take parts of the accord to include in the formal UN
negotiations. They say the accord has no legal standing and should not
be used as the basis of the final legally binding agreement because it
is not ambitious enough. It lacks any specific cuts in greenhouse gas
emissions and sets a temperature rise limit of 2C, which critics say is
too high to prevent serious harm to Africa and other parts of the world.

Last
night Jonathan Pershing, lead US negotiator at the Bonn talks, said he
"had no knowledge" of the document. But he endorsed one of its key
messages. "We are not prepared to see a process go forward in which
certain elements are cherry-picked. That was not the agreement we
reached in Copenhagen," he said.

Text of the leaked document:

Strategic communications objectives

  1. Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN
    negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate
    change. This includes support for a symmetrical and legally binding
    treaty.
  2. Manage expectations for Cancun – Without owning
    the message, advance the narrative that while a symmetrical legally
    binding treaty in Mexico is unlikely, solid progress can be made on the
    six or so main elements.
  3. Create a clear understanding of the CA's standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements.
  4. Build and maintain outside support for the administration's commitment
    to meeting the climate and clean energy challenge despite an
    increasingly difficult political environment to pass legislation.
  5. Deepen support and understanding from the developing world that
    advanced developing countries must be part of any meaningful solution
    to climate change including taking responsibilities under a legally
    binding treaty.

Media outreach

  • Continue to conduct interviews with print, TV and radio outlets driving the climate change story.
  • Increase use of off-the-record conversations.
  • Strengthen presence in international media markets during trips abroad. Focus efforts on radio and television markets.
  • Take greater advantage of new media opportunities such as podcasts to
    advance US position in the field bypassing traditional media outlets.
  • Consider a series of policy speeches/public forums during trips abroad to make our case directly to the developing world.

Key outreach efforts

  • Comprehensive and early outreach to policy makers, key stakeholders and
    validators is critical to broadening support for our positions in the
    coming year.
  • Prior to the 9-11 April meeting in Bonn it
    would be good for Todd to meet with leading NGOs. This should come in
    the form of 1:1s and small group sessions.
  • Larger group
    sessions, similar to the one held at CAP prior to Copenhagen, will be
    useful down the line, but more intimate meetings in the spring are
    essential to building the foundation of support. Or at the very least,
    disarming some of the harsher critics.

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