The U.S. Is Back — and Small Islands Are Still Around (for now)

It’s Getting Hot In Here is blogging the UN climate meetings currently being held in Bonn, Germany as part of the “countdown to Copenhagen” — the series of meetings designed to prepare a new global climate accord to be adopted in Denmark at the end of the year. The highlights so far:

The U.S. is back (baby) — “powerfully, fervently engaged” and “seized with the urgency of the task before us.” While some countries seem to have been waiting to follow America’s lead, President Obama’s climate envoy, Todd Stern, has warned that he has not come to Bonn wielding a “magic wand” to solve the climate crisis. Realism is good, I suppose, but that wand would have come in mighty handy.

The real sparks, though, according to It’s Getting Hot in Here, came from the Alliance Of Small Island States, who evidently “really kicked serious butt.” For countries that face the very real possibility of really serious catastrophe, good old butt kicking in the here and now is going to be the only way — absent a wand, genie, or other supernatural phenomena — to motivate larger, more carbon-emitting, politically influential, and not-in-danger-of-flooding countries to make stringent climate commitments. Even a pledge to minimize global warming to a 2 degree rise in temperature is not going to cut it:

“It is clear that 2 degrees is too high for Small Island Developing States. I don’t need to repeat the list of effects of 2 degrees…there are some issues that no amount of adaptation funding can deal with. When a hurricane wipes out your whole country, adequate adaptation funding is very hard to come by.” [emphasis mine]

That’s an issue that not even becoming part of France can help a small island nation deal with.