Questions, Questions . . .

10 April 2010

Dear U.S. Delegation, We appreciate how much more approachable you have become since the Obama administration took office. So we hope you won’t mind responding to a couple questions that have gotten our attention lately. Over the years, ECO has had an interesting experience learning more about United States politics and your legislative process. We started our studies on Senate ratification from the early Kyoto days. And now, although sometimes it all seems a bit strange, we think we understand your two party system as well as the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Most recently, we have been sorting out the mechanism of checks and balances between your President and the Congress. The highly visible health care debate provided a wonderful example of this in practice. First, the health care bill resulted in a clear victory for President Obama due to his diligence and political prowess in forging compromise on a very controversial topic. It is reasonable, therefore, to draw a parallel to the climate change debate and be encouraged by this outcome. But ECO, ever the logical onlooker, wants to ask, if President Obama and his administration made such remarkable progress in Copenhagen, why do they now remain on the sidelines while the Senate squabbles over climate proposals? After all, President Obama did win a Nobel Prize in part for his willingness to take leadership on climate change. Second, is it fully understood that the Senate bill expected later this month may fall miles behind the provisions required to help those most needing support in responding to climate change in our world — the poor nations, the vulnerable, the forests, and their people? In fact, ECO hears that the already inadequate international climate finance provisions passed by the House of Representatives last year will be mostly eliminated in the forthcoming Senate bill. If the President and his administration are truly committed to fulfilling their pledges in Copenhagen, won’t they insist that the Senate bill include more substantial amounts of funding for adaptation, clean technology and REDD? Since this is an open letter, ECO has questions for others as well. To leaders and ministers who negotiated with President Obama and the US delegation in Copenhagen – will you make your concerns clear about the prospect of minimal international climate finance levels in the Senate? And to all other delegates reading this: we’d like to suggest you chat up the friendly U.S. delegates you encounter in the corridors or between meetings and ask them about this as well. We’re sure they will be happy to answer your questions. And since we’re all still in learning mode on the US political system, maybe they can shed some light on other mysteries, such as, what exactly does the Electoral College do anyway? Signed, your new Best Friend Forever (BFF) ECO

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