Progress in Poznan: Did the Media Miss It?

The news cycle on the United Nations climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland is closing, and yet for the most part, the media missed the big story: the dramatic movement made by several key emerging economies.

Most of the news coverage conveyed a state of limbo, if not retrenchment: Negotiators were waiting on the new Obama administration for clear signals; the disastrous economy had the developed nations running scared.

There is truth in those stories, but they leave much unsaid.

I did not attend this round of talks, but my NRDC colleague Jake Schmidt did, and he gave me a first hand account of the real action at the negotiations.

  • Brazil announced that it signed a national climate change plan that pledges Brazil to cut deforestation rates in half by 2018.
  • Mexico unveiled its plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below 2002 levels by 2050. The country will establish a national cap and trade program that will set emissions limits on specific sectors, including cement and oil refining.

These major steps forward build on two announcements made over the summer:

  • In July, South Africa committed to bend the curve of its global warming pollution: the nation's emissions must stop growing no later than 2025, and must decline around 2030 or 2035.
  • In August, South Korea said that it will announce its own emissions reduction targets through 2020.

As Jake points out on his blog, these programs aren't perfect. Brazil's for instance, may not be aggressive enough and may not curb deforestation thoroughly enough. But compared to the MIA American climate commitments, they are positively inspiring. 

They also show a potential "crack" in the long-standing debate between developed and developing countries about who should move first to address global warming. The answer coming from developing countries is that both need to take action, but with clear leadership from the developed nations.

It is an enormous relief, of course, that the days of American inaction are coming to an end. President-elect Obama recognizes the urgent need to tackle global warming. But to make progress on the world stage, we must move forward here at home first. I hope Obama and the new Congress the growing willingness of these emerging

And they must do it quickly. Both because the science demands it, and because the next major negotiations will begin in Copenhagen next year. If America doesn't step forward, we will continue to be left behind by the good news story of the day: developing nations.