Any moment now, Harry Reid will unveil climate and energy legislation for the Senate to begin debating as soon as July 26. Dealing with climate change is already a race against time: Just last week another round of scientific evidence revealed how little time is left to dramatically cut emissions. Nervous Senators may want to delay action, but it's unlikely chemistry and physics will bend to fit the political calendar. As politicians continue to whine, the planet continues to warm.
Meanwhile, on the other side of this warming planet, some political leaders are walking their talk. This weekend, six developing countries made commitments to cut emissions by as much as 40%, some committing to full carbon neutrality. Low-lying Maldives, which is already committed to carbon neutrality, convened the gathering.
Maldives, Costa Rica, Samoa, Ethiopia, Marshall Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, some of the developing countries in attendance at the summit, can fairly claim to have done practically nothing to cause climate change. They're not legally required to cut their emissions, due precisely to this lack of historical responsibility. And yet, they're doing everything they can -- literally everything -- that's what 100% emissions reductions indicates.
Developing countries weren't the only nations that attended the meeting. The so-called Cartagena group also included the UK, Australia, and France, among others. It's notable that these developed countries didn't announce sweeping commitments at the meeting's conclusion. So what were they doing there?
Trying to drive a wedge between especially vulnerable countries and the G77 + China, the larger developing country negotiating bloc? Sincerely trying to find some common ground and make progress? Both? Observers on all sides will be reading the tea leaves from these increasingly frequent informal discussions to try and divine what’s in store for the formal UN climate process.
Either way, drastic emissions reductions commitments are necessary, and require bold leadership. The developing countries at the summit announced their commitments with little fanfare, but they amount to a message of "Shame on You!" that's sorely needed to move the Big Polluters.
On October 10, thousands of communities worldwide will make the same statement to our leaders. We'll be planting urban gardens, sealing leaky windows, and putting solar panels on schools, all to show our politicians the way forward -- so they can take the big steps we all need to reign in climate change.
Here in the U.S., where senators apologize to BP, claim global warming is a hoax, and otherwise demonstrate very little leadership on this issue, it's striking to see just how much other countries will do to try and fix the problem.
We can do more here in the United States. Retrofitting homes across this country, erecting wind turbines, and otherwise tooling up to transition away from coal and oil are precisely the kind of job-creating, emission-cutting policies we need.
Last weekend's news is a good reality check from an opposite corner of the hot globe we all must share and repair together.