Will Obama stop the United States “Oil Addiction”?
Although in 2007 the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report provided new solid evidence on the large contribution of anthropogenic activities to climate change, political leaders’ decisions are still distant from what the scaring results of science suggest: immediate action. Last December at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) in Poznan IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri warned the delegates that “our actions have been weak” while the entity and pace of climate change are dramatic.
The current task is hard: to deliver the post-Kyoto treaty. This implies an agreement among all the members States of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) on binding targets to consistently reduce our CO2 emissions in the next decades. On next March 10th to 12th the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change will be held right in Copenhagen, where the important COP15 will take place on December 7th to 18th. This next conference can be a very good opportunity for scientists to give policy makers the best advice to draw an effective strategy to tackle “the greatest market failure ever seen” as Nicholas Stern defined climate change. The Danish government seem very serious about the challenge and responsibility ahead and, together with the United Nations, acted promptly to prepare the ground for the next round of negotiations.
After Barack Obama took office in Washington there are high expectations on the new President of the United States’ decisions on the climate change hot topic. By ratifying the Protocol now the U.S.A. would have to pay high economic sanctions because their targets will most probably not be met (their greenhouse gases emissions increased by 19% from 1990 to 2006, while a 7% reduction would be required by 2012). Thus the best question to ask is not whether there will be a last-minute ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, but rather whether Obama will be able to lead the definition of a new and more ambitious international agreement to cut CO2 emissions. It seems so since he said "We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050".
The great challenge he is going to face is to address the current global economic and political crises around the world with a constant look at the environment. In fact his ambitious objective “to make the United States energy independent from the Middle East in 10 years” is very much linked to the solution of the war in Iraq on one side and to the creation of the 21st new economy, the New Green Deal asked for by more and more people in the global public opinion.
President Obama points at Spain, Japan and Germany as examples because they are creating green jobs, but is the European Union as a whole losing its role as a political leader on climate? Certainly new energy is needed from the other side of the Atlantic and, listening to his speech in Michigan during the campaign for the election, one can feel Barack Obama is calling for the same Green Revolution invoked by Jacques Chirac a few years ago.
Starting from his country the new President of the U.S.A. promised to meet the objective that, as he said, politicians in Washington failed to achieve for 30 years from Nixon onwards: the country’s energy independence. First of all Obama wants to give a 1.000 $ energy rebate to every U.S. family to be paid by means of a tax on current record profits of oil companies: this is really a big U-turn with respect to George Bush’s administration. Furthermore he called for a complete transformation of the economy asking scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, citizens to play their part, for example by buying green cars that are going to be built in Michigan as he proposes. He clearly said: “We must end the age of oil in our time for the U.S. economy and security and for the future of the planet.” He also promised to create 5 millions new good stable jobs indicating Michigan itself as an example: there 50.000 jobs have been already generated in the clean energy sector. To do this Obama wants to invest 150 billion $ in 10 years.
Presenting the “New Energy for America” plan during the political campaign he asked himself and the nation: “What kind of future we want for this country and for this planet?” His answer was radical: “We won’t give Exxon Mobil 1,2 billion $ tax breaks like McCain would do to a company having scored a record of 1.500$/second profits last quarter”. Obama’s vision of a new world is convincing in words but needs now to become concrete political action and this is what the world is waiting for. Like in the 60s John Fitzgerald Kennedy asked U.S.’s engineers and scientists to find a way to go to the moon Barack Hussein Obama is now asking his country and the world to follow him to create a greener and safer future. This seems to be the only alternative to defeat man-made climate change threats and the dangerous dependence on fewer and more expensive oil remaining. History will tell if he is the leader who is going to change the present carbon-intensive economy or at least launch convincingly this global enterprise. Kennedy and the human race won the bet to land on the moon in 1969...now it’s Obama’s turn to win his challenge to stop the U.S.’s oil addiction. The consequences of a success could represent a great benefit for the entire world.
Written by Luca Marazzi on behalf of Responding to Climate Change
To review the facts of the energy speech “Barack Obama and Joe Biden: New Energy for America”: www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_speech_080308.pdf
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