Confidential document reveals Obama’s US climate talk
Titled Strategic communications objectives and dated 11 March 2010, it outlines the key messages that the Obama administration wants to convey to its critics and to the world media in the run-up to the vital UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in November. (You can read the document text below).
Top of the list of objectives is to: “Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change.” It also talks of “managing expectations” of the outcome of the Cancun meeting and bypassing traditional media outlets by using podcasts and “intimate meetings” with the chief US negotiator to disarm the US’s harsher critics.
But the key phrase is in paragraph three where the author writes: “Create a clear understanding of the CA’s [Copenhagen accord’s] standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements.”
This is the clearest signal that the US will refuse to negotiate on separate elements of the controversial accord, but intends to push it through the UN process as a single “take it or leave it” text. The accord is the last-minute agreement reached at the chaotic Copenhagen summit in December. Over 110 countries are now “associated” with the accord but it has not been adopted by the 192-nation UN climate convention. The US has denied aid to some countries that do not support the accord.
The “take it or leave it” approach divided countries in Bonn this weekend and alienated most developing countries including China, India and Brazil who want to take parts of the accord to include in the formal UN negotiations. They say the accord has no legal standing and should not be used as the basis of the final legally binding agreement because it is not ambitious enough. It lacks any specific cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and sets a temperature rise limit of 2C, which critics say is too high to prevent serious harm to Africa and other parts of the world.
Last night Jonathan Pershing, lead US negotiator at the Bonn talks, said he “had no knowledge” of the document. But he endorsed one of its key messages. “We are not prepared to see a process go forward in which certain elements are cherry-picked. That was not the agreement we reached in Copenhagen,” he said.
Text of the leaked document:
Strategic communications objectives
1) Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change. This includes support for a symmetrical and legally binding treaty.
2) Manage expectations for Cancun – Without owning the message, advance the narrative that while a symmetrical legally binding treaty in Mexico is unlikely, solid progress can be made on the six or so main elements.
3) Create a clear understanding of the CA’s standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements.
4) Build and maintain outside support for the administration’s commitment to meeting the climate and clean energy challenge despite an increasingly difficult political environment to pass legislation.
5) Deepen support and understanding from the developing world that advanced developing countries must be part of any meaningful solution to climate change including taking responsibilities under a legally binding treaty.