November 20, 2008
Humanity can rejoice. Finally, we have a real chance for seriously tackling global climate change.
After eight terrible years of stalemate under the Bush Administration, which in the beginning even refused to acknowledge the fact of climate change, the USA is about to make volte-face in energy and climate policy.
President-elect Obama has fully grasped its relevance for the USA and humanity. He understands that, jointly with the rest of the world, the USA has to cut its C02 emissions, for reasons of energy security and long-term threats to humanity. But he also sees climate change as an opportunity for creating millions of new jobs in renewable energies and energy efficiency.
Less than two weeks after his election he has confirmed and sharpened his basic stand.
• His long-term strategic objective is to cut American C02 emissions by 80 percent until 2050, which is in line with the conventional reduction target for all industrial countries.
• By 2020 the USA should have returned to 1990 emission levels.
• To that end, the USA should introduce a cap and trade system similar to EU draft legislation for 2013-2020.
This vision is next to revolutionary and has excellent chances of coming true. Several key governors, e.g. from California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin, support his basic thrust. So does Mc Cain. Even more important, Obama can count on a Democratic majority in Congress, and even on some Republican votes.
This radical change of the US position augurs well for the ongoing negotiations on the future climate compact to enter into force in 2013. At the next climate conference in Poznan, early December, the world will witness the first signs of this shift.
Most important, the EU will have a powerful ally. There is a good prospect for the EU and USA aligning their cap and trade systems and constituting a huge trans-Atlantic market for C02 emissions, which Canada, Japan, China and others will join in due time.
The new US Administration will also give a boost to more fuel-efficient automobiles, thanks to stricter consumption standards and innovative engine technologies.
History is shaped by men, for the worst or the best.
By his stubbornness, President Bush has become co-responsible for the acceleration of global warming since the beginning of the 21st century. President Obama is likely to help humanity realise it has to replace fossil energy by higher energy efficiency and alternative energies from nuclear to solar, wind, hydro-power, geothermal and waves.
Jointly, the USA and EU will be able to convince the international community that tackling climate change is the common overriding challenge of this century. It is a challenge and an opportunity for the long-term sustainability of the earth’s vital systems.