Obama: Go to Copenhagen!

For the past two years, 192 countries have participated in talks on the pressing issue of climate change, which will culminate in the Copenhagen summit next month. So far, more than 40 heads of state have agreed to attend, to act as negotiators and more importantly to demonstrate a firm commitment to ambitious targets. The ...

For the past two years, 192 countries have participated in talks on the pressing issue of climate change, which will culminate in the Copenhagen summit next month. So far, more than 40 heads of state have agreed to attend, to act as negotiators and more importantly to demonstrate a firm commitment to ambitious targets. The growing list includes Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But the RSVPs seem lost in the mail for the leaders of the countries considered to be the lynchpins of the deal -- China, the United States, and India. Hu Jintao, Barack Obama, and Manmohan Singh haven't committed yet -- and they should.

This summer, Obama indicated he would not attend because Congress has not yet passed climate change legislation. He's since waffled a bit, saying he would if his appearance would close the deal. It's weak tea, and those calling for him to attend include Al Gore and Brazil's da Silva, who used his weekly radio address to implore Obama and Hu to make the trip.

For the past two years, 192 countries have participated in talks on the pressing issue of climate change, which will culminate in the Copenhagen summit next month. So far, more than 40 heads of state have agreed to attend, to act as negotiators and more importantly to demonstrate a firm commitment to ambitious targets. The growing list includes Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But the RSVPs seem lost in the mail for the leaders of the countries considered to be the lynchpins of the deal — China, the United States, and India. Hu Jintao, Barack Obama, and Manmohan Singh haven’t committed yet — and they should.

This summer, Obama indicated he would not attend because Congress has not yet passed climate change legislation. He’s since waffled a bit, saying he would if his appearance would close the deal. It’s weak tea, and those calling for him to attend include Al Gore and Brazil’s da Silva, who used his weekly radio address to implore Obama and Hu to make the trip.

It is less likely that Hu or Singh will attend. Their developing countries have been good negotiators, but reticent to commit to ambitious targets. (China recently called for keeping the Kyoto protocol instead.) If Obama commits, though, they would be a lot more willing — and that should be reason for the U.S. leader to consider heading across the pond.

In other climate news, the International Energy Agency released its full World Energy Outlook yesterday. One choice doomsday passage:

For every year that passes, the window for action on emissions over a given period becomes narrower — and the costs of transforming the energy sector increase. We calculate that each year of delay before moving onto the emissions path consistent with a 2°C temperature increase would add approximately $500 billion to the global incremental investment cost…A delay of just a few years would probably render that goal completely out of reach.

Annie Lowrey is assistant editor at FP.

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