The United Nations’ refusal to accredit InvestigateWest journalsts to cover the global climate-change negotiations today in Copenhagen took up way too much of my day. How ridiculous! The UN, which can’t even figure out how to open up to independent journalists the corridors outside where actual decisions are made* … is going to be running an international treaty? One that likely will engender massive worldwide economic and energy-use changes?
Anyway, to recap the most important development in the climate story on this side of the Atlantic today, the Obama administration announced it would be treating greenhouse gases as pollutants. I first saw it on the front page of The Wall Street Journal this morning, and further checking suggests the Journal got the jump on others on this story (with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers’ positions both mentioned before the jump).
Now, this is anything but unexpected. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced months ago the agency would be taking the step it did today, which puts EPA on the path to regulating carbon dioxide and methane and the whole shootin’ match as if they were, oh, say, benzene. The EPA was more or less obligated to do this by a 2007 court decision.
Jackson said nothing about today’s announcement when she was in Seattle Friday. The release todayof EPA’s “endangerment” finding, coming as the Copenhagen climate talks opens, suggests that the intended audience was the legions of delegates, observers and others in Denmark’s capital.
But there’s another really important audience: Congress. Not long after they finish with the health care debate, members of Congress are expected to once and for all say what they plan to do about climate change.
Jackson reiterated today that the Obama administration wants Congress to act. But today’s announcement is like the administration dressing in a doctor’s scrubs, wielding a kitchen knife and telling the patient lying on the gurney that he can have appendectomy via the administration’s kitchen knife or Congress’s scalpel.
Yes, it’s the U.S. Congress that really has to say what’s going down from here on. We’ll be watching. And so will the world.
* Yes. Recall that the actual negotiations that really matter usually are taking place behind closed doors, anyway. Having a pass to get into the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where the talks are going on, gives journos access to the open sessions inside, as well as press conferences and other spin. But it also gives them access to actual delegates (including those from Third World countries who are pretty mad) who can give a first-hand account of what’s going on behind the closed doors.