President Obama ran as a climate-change candidate who said that the time to act was now. But at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, Obama has joined the chorus of doubters that say that a global deal on cutting emissions won’t be reached at a key summit next month in Copenhagen.
The 19 leaders agreed that the gap between rich and poor nations over what to do about global warming was too big to bridge in the next three weeks. The December meeting in Denmark would be an interim step to any final agreement.
Those doubts reverberated Sunday at the APEC meeting in Singapore, the second leg of Obama’s Asia tour. He’s now in China, on his first visit there.
Underscoring the importance of the foundering Copenhagen summit, Denmark’s prime minister flew to Singapore to meet with APEC leaders, including the two biggest polluters: China and the United States.
For Obama, Sunday was a whirlwind of multilateral and bilateral meetings – Russia, Indonesia – and included an inaugural US session with Southeast Asian leaders.
For for the first time in decades, Burmese leaders were (Myanmar) at the same table under the new US engagement policy, offering a chance for Obama to press directly for democracy and reconciliation. The US president called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma.
Obama also met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to push forward a new deal on nuclear arms reduction. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start 1) expires on Dec. 5.
As usual, APEC focused on reviving multilateral trade liberalization, keeping markets open and rebalancing the global economy. Platitudes about “building blocks” towards an Asia-Pacific trade zone were made.
Nobody took aim at China’s controversial currency peg that keeps its exports cheap in dollar terms, compared to countries with floating currencies.
Climate change was on APEC’s agenda. But a proposal to cut greenhouse gases by half by 2050 was dropped from the final statement.
Instead, APEC leaders said they would work toward a political framework at Copenhagen, but not a binding deal on reducing emissions.
The final text was not exactly a ringing endorsement for Denmark and other counties pushing for a successor international treaty to Kyoto. “We … reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen,” it said.