03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

From Here to a Global Climate Treaty

Right now Copenhagen is the most important city in the world. In just 2 short months, the city might witness the formation of a global climate treaty. You've heard of the Kyoto protocol - the climate treaty that the US helped draft 12 years ago? The one that pretty much every other country has signed on to?

Well, the US, with 1/4 of global greenhouse emissions, has more excuses than a student with a late term-paper about why it hasn't done its part to help solve climate change. The people of the world aren't impressed.

Two years ago in Bali after a dramatic plea from Papua New Guinea in the final hours, the US and other leaders agreed to make a global treaty in Copenhagen in 2009. According to the Bali agreement, the plan needs to have four key elements to bring all nations together (here's the homework assignment). It needs to set mitigation targets for every country (reducing carbon emissions). It needs to protect forests from destruction (which cause 20% of global emissions). It needs to help poor countries develop more responsibly than we did by providing clean technology because the world can't afford to repeat the dirty energy economies of the 20th century. And it needs to help poor countries deal with the present and increasing effects of the climate crisis.

The road-map to Copenhagen, agreed on by the leaders in Bali, places a responsibility on every national government, but the path has been most difficult for the United States. Stubborn, short-sighted politics have delayed action for years, but the window of opportunity for a global deal in Copenhagen has added urgency to our fight.

When the the timetable was set, climate activists like myself stepped up efforts to get the US on track in the two years from December 2007 to December 2009. We threw ourselves into an election that promised change and took on challenges on a historic scale. But that clearly hasn't been enough.

Photo Credit: Robert Van Warden

Photo Credit: Robert Van Warden

We brought 12,000 activists to Powershift09 for the largest lobby day ever, and then stopped the U.S. Capitol plant from ever burning coal again. Just last month over 1,800 flash-mobs all over the world placed wake-up calls to world leaders on the need for climate action. And it's working; the global movement we've been working for is here and its beautiful.

The one tiny, little problem is that a handful of US senators stand between us and a global climate treaty. In Bali, they said the treaty needed to deal with 4 things, things that the senate (and specifically the finance committee) can provide.

Luckily, large environmental organizations are pulling out all the stops to fight for ambitious reductions in domestic emissions - as ambitious as we can get. (But boy are my fingers crossed that we can get something better.)

What we're lacking, and this is where you come in, are people fighting for those other three provisions. Adaptation, clean-tech transfer and forest protection receive mere lip-service in the initial draft of the Kerry-Boxer bill.

Developed countries need to put money on the table. How much? According to the Climate Action Network International policy paper, $150 billion per year, additional to existing aid, and raised from auction allowances. The European Commission Communication on Climate Financing is talking on a similar scale at least, calling for €50 billion annually by 2020.

What that works out to for the US, is in the range of 5% of allocation revenue for international adaptation, 5% for clean tech-transfer, and 5% for forest protection. The House climate bill in June allocated just 1%, 0.5% and 5%, respectively for those provisions. The Senate can do better and needs to do better. Whether we get a global deal or not could all come down to the next few weeks in the US senate.

We're so close to the global climate deal we need, but three of the four major provisions required aren't getting much attention. Let's give the senators on the finance committee a reason to look beyond their petty interests and own up to the responsibility we have to the world. Take a look at the senate finance committee members and how to contact them.

Two years ago, we could only hope that a good US Senate bill would be the biggest remaining obstacle to a good global climate treaty. It took millions of calls and letters, thousands of individual meetings and one of the largest days of action the world has yet seen to get us here. We're not done yet. If we can make the case for financing global solutions to the Senate, we can start to see the outlines of history -- the story we can tell our grandchildren about how we fought for, and won, a planet they can still enjoy.

Morgan Goodwin is a fellow at the Avaaz Action Factory in DC