Peripatetic president to press for progress

PERIPATETIC PRESIDENT TO PRESS FOR PROGRESS…. To demonstrate the U.S. commitment to combating global warming, many, here and around the world, hoped President Obama would personally travel to Copenhagen next month for the United Nations meeting on climate change. They got their wish.

Mr. Obama, who had previously not committed to making an appearance at the summit, will deliver a speech on Dec. 9 en route to Oslo, Norway, where he will accept the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10.

Mr. Obama had been under considerable pressure from other world leaders and environmental advocates to make the trip as a statement of American commitment to the climate change negotiations. The talks, involving more than 190 nations, are expected to produce a wide-ranging interim political declaration but stop short of proposing a binding international treaty.

Delegates are expected to commit to completing the treaty next year.

Mr. Obama has said recently that he would attend the session if his presence could help lead to a successful outcome. It is significant that he will appear at the beginning rather than at the end of the 12-day meeting. Most major decisions at such environmental forums come at the very end of the process.

Mr. Obama will tell the delegates to the climate conference that the United States intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020,” according to a White House official.

In a statement this morning, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who’s helping lead the Senate fight on a climate bill, said of the president’s travel plans, “This could be one hell of a global game changer with big reverberations here at home. For the first time, an American Administration has proposed an emissions reduction target and when President Obama lands in Copenhagen it will emphasize that the United States is in it to win it. This announcement matches words with action. The Obama Administration is now undeniably mustering bona fide leadership on climate change, not merely departing from Bush Administration intransigence and ideology.”

Now, as we talked about last week, the larger plans for the Copenhagen meeting have already been scaled back a bit, with leaders eyeing a two-step process — incremental progress this year, and a commitment to renew the next stage of efforts next year.

But Obama’s in-person lobbying efforts will give the talks a boost, and signal to the world that the United States intends to lead.