The Road to CopenhagenAugust 20, 2009
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Frank Caliva is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries. He is also a former Presidential Management Fellow.
The international conversation regarding climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, energy usage, and environmental protection has taken on a heightened sense of priority lately. These issues are on the front page of our daily newspapers, the topics du jour among academics and policymakers, and the increasing focus of global conferences and summits. Our daily lives are starting to be impacted as well: more alternate-fueled cars on the road, more options for conserving energy and choosing the source of our electricity from our utility companies, and more ways for individuals to reduce our carbon footprints.
Some significant steps have also been taken by our national leaders. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to put a cap on carbon emissions, increase funding for renewable energy, and encourage more efficient practices by U.S. companies to reduce waste. Businesses are now more commonly implementing “green” strategies to lessen their impact on the environment. We are taking steps in the right direction, but real change will require a coordinated effort on a global level. To achieve this, we at ITA have been working with other federal agencies as participants in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. These discussions are focused on writing a new international agreement on climate change.
In 2007, countries decided to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be formally agreed to in Copenhagen in December 2009. In the time since then, representatives from across the U.S. government have been talking with their foreign counterparts in preliminary meetings to lay the groundwork for the treaty. Only a few months away, all eyes are now looking ahead to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is at the top of the conference agenda, but these negotiations will also touch on numerous other issues with significant implications for the U.S. business community—like intellectual property rights, research and development, technology sales, carbon financing, and energy efficiency. As an analyst at ITA, it is my job to ensure U.S. industries’ voices are heard during these critical negotiations, so that a solution is found that is not only effective but also recognizes the critical importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to a successful response to climate change.
To accomplish this goal, we have scheduled meetings across the United States leading up to the Copenhagen conference, where industry leaders will have the opportunity to meet with government representatives—from ITA and other federal agencies—to learn how this new proposed agreement could impact their businesses. These meetings will also help us prepare for the upcoming negotiations, by letting us hear the thoughts and concerns of the business community. The first of these meetings took place in Washington, DC at the Department of Commerce on July 16.
I hope to hear from many of you and would encourage your participation in upcoming events planned in Milwaukee on August 25, San Francisco on September 10, Pittsburgh on October 8, and Little Rock, with an additional option for firms nationwide to participate via webinar.
There are only a few months left before the Copenhagen conference. This is an important opportunity to lay out a plan on climate change which will reduce carbon emissions, enhance energy security, and protect our environment, while promoting development and economic growth.