The growing demand for strong, clean energy and climate legislation in the United States in the wake of the BP oil disaster should provide new momentum for the international climate talks taking place right now in Bonn, Germany.
For those diplomats in Bonn who may have their heads too far stuck in acronyms and policy papers to have noticed what’s been happening across the (now oil covered) seas in the U.S., here’s a quick update.
For over 50 days, a veritable volcano of oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying the local environment, wrecking livelihoods throughout the region, and, most recently, drenching sea birds in black, toxic sludge.
In fact, the only thing spreading faster than the spill has been public outrage. Here in the U.S., our nightly news and front pages have been filled with stories of everyday Americans (and even some formerly drill-baby-drill politicians) calling for action against the oil companies, government reform, and real solutions to our addiction to dirty energy.
Angry citizens have protested at BP gas stations across the country. Rallies from New Orleans to Washington, D.C. are becoming louder and more intense. Online, hundreds of thousands of people have joined Facebook groups and signed petitions to repeal tax breaks to Big Oil or press criminal charges against BP. Over the next month, a renewed round of actions and protests are being planned.
President Obama has begun feel the heat. After being lambasted in the press for not taking stronger action, recently he’s stepped up his game. In a speech earlier this week, he said, “The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.” He went on to commit to passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill this year, saying to applause, “I will work with anyone to get this done -- and we will get it done.”
We will get it done. Those five words should be enough to jump-start the UN climate process. For the first time in years, there is momentum for real reform in the United States. (Our organization, 350.org, for example, has been gaining thousands of new members every week as more and more citizens look for ways to help break our nation’s addiction to oil once and for all). Despite the odds, despite the long road ahead, I’m more confident than ever that President Obama is right: “we will get it done.”
Negotiators in Bonn need to feel that sense of momentum (and outrage) here in the U.S. and redouble their efforts to move the climate negotiations forward.
As Bill McKibben wrote in a recent article, “Dirty as the water is off the Mississippi Delta, that’s barely the tip of the damage from fossil fuel. If that oil had traveled down a pipeline to a refinery and then into the fuel tank of a car, it would have wrecked the planet just as powerfully.”
Stopping the spill of carbon into our atmosphere will take more than robotic submarines and “top kills,” it will take a real effort on the part of our political leaders to stop dragging their feet and get to work on a fair, ambitious and binding international climate treaty.
That effort starts in Bonn. If negotiators hear one message from the oil drenched shores of the U.S. right now it should be this: get to work.