After several weeks of speculation over whether president Obama would attend the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen next month, the White House confirmed today that he will go. Obama plans on arriving on the 9th of December, two days after the start of the conference, to deliver a speech to the international delegations. Obama is traveling to Norway on the 10th to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize.
Until now, he has said he will attend if his presence would help achieve a successful outcome. The negotiating process has been hobbled for years by the lack of US leadership and firm commitments on mitigation targets. This week Obama also said he will propose firm targets "in the range" of a 17 percent cut in emissions over 2005 levels by 2020.
While the US simply laying "numbers on the table" is progress, those targets fall well short of what scientists and the international community say is required to effectively address escalating emissions and climate change. Most industrialized nations have proposed from 20 to 30 percent in emissions reductions by 2020, with a reference year of 1990 (instead of 2005 from the US). Developing countries are calling for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2020, also from 1990 levels. Referencing the US proposal to 1990, the targets represent a 4% emissions reduction.