Obama presses for climate pact

OBAMA PRESSES FOR CLIMATE PACT…. As promised, President Obama traveled to Copenhagen this morning, calling on the 119 world leaders to, at long last, reach an international climate change agreement.

The president wasted no time during his visit: Within an hour of Air Force One’s touchdown in Copenhagen on Friday morning, Mr. Obama was in a meeting with a high-level group of leaders representing some 20 countries and organizations. But that earlier meeting was most notable in that the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, elected not to attend, instead sending the vice foreign minister, He Yafei, a snub that left both American and European officials seething.

After his speech, however, Obama did meet with Wen privately for nearly an hour, where the two reportedly made some “progress.”

But the speech itself was notable in that the president sounded impatient with the delays. Indeed, at one point early on, Obama strayed from his prepared text, telling the audience, “The question … before us is no longer the nature of the challenge — the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, I have to be honest, as the world watches us today, I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now, and it hangs in the balance.”

Also of interest, the president emphasized the importance of a mechanism through which nations would be held accountable, proving that countries are doing what they claim to reduce emissions. “These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty,” Obama said. “They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we’re living up to our obligations. Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page. I don’t know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments. That doesn’t make sense. It would be a hollow victory.” (China, I think he’s talking to you.)

Acknowledging the divisions between developing nations and major powers, the president concluded, “We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor — one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren. Or we can choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.”

The similarity between what the president tells the world about climate change and what the president tells Congress about health care is striking.