Last year's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen was a disappointment by almost any measure. Like many U.S. progressives, we hoped that things would go differently, but in the end, the U.S. failed to help negotiate anything fair or binding.
So why hinge any expectations onto this year's discussions? Because we know that this time the climate movement can push President Obama for true climate leadership -- and we need his leadership on climate right now.
In the last few weeks, we've seen press reports about a number of positive moves from the Obama Administration, including fast-tracked wind permits, a renewed moratorium on offshore oil drilling, and calls for more progress on clean energy development in the face of China's burgeoning industry push. Now, the U.S. delegation heads to Cancún this week with a chance to lead other developed nations in raising $100 billion a year to help the world's poorest countries adapt to the effects of climate change, as the President promised the world we would do during last year's conference. We are joining many other organizations in demanding he live up to this promise. Millions of lives depend on him following through on this.
This is where President Obama can actually do something he hasn't been very good at over the last two years: he can be a world leader in the fight against climate change. He can fight to change the political landscape at home with a strong showing in Cancún. If the President can take an elbow to the mouth playing pick-up basketball and come away with a few stitches, then he can take the sharp elbows from climate deniers and throw some of his own.
Last week, 1Sky joined climate, social justice, and faith-based groups for a rally outside the White House, pushing and prodding President Obama to show true climate leadership. We joined supporters from Oxfam America, ActionAid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Jubilee USA in calling on the President to take a stand and fulfill America's climate promises to the world's poorest nations. Here are some photos from the event:
Speakers from the Union for Reform Judaism, Bangladesh Environmental Network, and the Global AIDS Alliance told ralliers that climate change will do its most serious damage in developing nations already struggling with disease and famine. And the leaders of the country that can do the most good on climate were standing just a few hundred feet away in the White House.
Regardless of shifting politics in Washington, DC, the global climate crisis continues to worsen in the face of continued inaction. U.S. action is critical to ensuring continued international progress on climate change, and the absence of U.S. action could do serious damage. Leadership from President Obama on this issue will also show Capitol Hill that this is one issue with which we cannot play politics because the science will not wait for the politics of the U.S. Congress. It's time for President Obama to start throwing some sharp elbows in the climate fight.