Statement on President Obama’s Climate Speech by the Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kassie Siegel, ksiegel@biologicaldiversity.org,
951-768-8301 (U.S. cell in Copenhagen)

Statement on President Obama’s Climate Speech by the Center for Biological Diversity

COPENHAGEN - Just hours
after touching down in Copenhagen, President
Obama delivered a speech indicating that the U.S.
negotiating position is unchanged.  The U.S.
has pledged to cut emissions by only about 3% below 1990 levels by 2020. 
According to a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat
document leaked
yesterday, the emissions reductions promised by the U.S. and other countries
would, even if fully realized, still result in atmospheric CO2
concentrations exceeding 550 parts per million and a global temperature rise of
over 3 degrees C.  This translates into a death sentence for small island
nations, coral reefs, polar bears and much of the world’s biodiversity. 
And the 550 ppm and 3 degree prediction of the Secretariat is likely optimistic;
independent scientists conclude the
current proposals in Copenhagen would take us to over 750 ppm and
3.9 degrees of warming.

Obama also conditioned U.S. support for a $100 billion
fund to help the most vulnerable nations in the developing world cope with the
impact of global warming “if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord”
outlined by the U.S.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute of
the Center for Biological Diversity, had the following response to President
Obama’s speech:

“President Obama offered only ultimatums to those
countries most impacted by global warming; accept our terms or we will block
funding to help you survive the crisis we caused but for which we still refuse
to take responsibility.”

“Notably, in an apparent conscious renunciation of one of
the most fundamental principals of the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change, Obama replaced the phrase ‘common but differentiated
responsibilities’ with the new phrase ‘common but differentiated
responses.’  In short, under Obama, the U.S.
apparently refuses to accept its unique responsibility as the largest cumulative
greenhouse emitter on the planet.”

“Given Obama reaffirmed his position that the U.S. would
commit to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by only 3% below 1990 levels by 2020,
any deal announced in Copenhagen can not in any rational sense of the word be
deemed a ‘success.’  The IPCC estimates that CO2 reductions of
25-40% below 1990 levels are needed by 2020 to avoid greater than 2 degrees of
warming, while cuts of over 45% are likely needed to get on a trajectory for the
only scientifically and ethically credible target of 350
ppm.”

“For the U.S. to put on the negotiating table a
take-it-or-leave-it proposal that, by all reasonable and rational accounts would
result in the death or displacement of millions of people and the extinctions of
hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of species, is unacceptable.  It
is hard to image Obama the Candidate endorsing such position.  But Obama
the President is, when it comes to actual actions on climate, far closer to
President Bush than Candidate Obama.  The U.S.
and the world need Candidate Obama to reemerge.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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