From: Christopher Flavin, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published April 28, 2009 10:10 AM

OPINION: Climate Forecast Bright for Major Economies Meeting

As representatives of the 16 countries that contribute most heavily to climate change meet at the U.S. State Department this week, there are signs that many of these nations are more ready to consider major changes in direction than they were just a few months ago.

The change in U.S. administration has had the largest impact on climate atmospherics, converting President George W. Bush's Major Economies "talk shop" into President Barack Obama's effort to infuse greater urgency into the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations by encouraging the largest nations on the planet to play a constructive leadership role. The fact that Obama's three-month-old administration has already taken several actions to spur U.S. domestic climate policy gives him an international standing that Bush was unable to attain in eight years in the White House.

Energy policy is developing even more rapidly in Beijing than it is in Washington. China has recently stepped up its national efforts to improve energy efficiency, including mobilizing its massive stimulus fund, and the country is mounting major efforts to become a global leader in electric transportation and solar energy. A leading Chinese academic with close government connections suggested recently that the day may be approaching when China will establish limits on the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions.


In India, despite the confusion of a national election now under way, the government has begun to flesh out its National Action Plan on climate change, with a major emphasis on improving energy efficiency-particularly in buildings. Like China, India has integrated climate into its development plans and has targeted solar energy, the country´s largest single resource, as a strategic economic priority. Shyam Saran, the climate envoy to the Indian Prime Minister, speaks encouragingly of talks with Todd Stern, his counterpart in Washington, and indicates that India is prepared to do more.

No major breakthroughs are likely at this first meeting of the Major Economies since President Obama took office. But the growing dialogue among this small group of countries that account for the great majority of the climate problem will be immeasurably important for paving the way to Copenhagen this fall. If these nations convince each other that a post-carbon economy is possible-and that the economic benefits will go to those countries that get there first-their reluctance to sign a strong new climate deal will fade.

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