While no members of Congress are traveling to the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa, at least they can send dueling video messages.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James M. Inhofe (R-Okla) kicked things off Thursday morning with a message to delegates that he’s “happy to bring you the good news about the complete collapse of the global warming movement and the failure of the Kyoto process.”
“For the past decade, I have been the leader in the United States Senate standing up against global warming alarmism and cap-and-trade, which would have been the largest tax increase in American history,” Inhofe said in the video. “This victory is especially important today, as families in America and around the world continue to face tough economic times. Tossing out any remote possibility of a UN global warming treaty is one of the most important things we can do for the economy.”
Inhofe, who did journey to the 2009 U.N. talks in Copenhagen for a single day, added with apparent glee, “I am making this announcement from Washington D.C., where I am confident that the only person left talking about global warming is me.”
But wait! Inhofe must not have realized that the panel’s chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was headed to the Senate Radio/TV gallery at 10 a.m. to broadcast her own remarks to U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
She said she wanted to send a clear message, “And that message is this: there are leaders in the U.S. Congress who understand the urgent threat facing the globe, and despite reports to the contrary, many members of Congress are committed to lessening the impacts of unchecked climate change.”
“I am speaking to you today from Washington, D.C. because the business of Congress requires me to be here this week,” said Boxer, who has done video messages for UNFCC delegates before, but has not attended negotiations in person. “Although I am not there with you in person, it in no way lessens my commitment to the work that you are doing in Durban and the importance of your mission to address climate change.”
Inhofe’s video was aired at a side event at the conference, while Boxer’s staff was distributing her message to delegates in Durban.
Neither message is likely to shift the dynamic in Durban, where U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said a new international climate pact might be “beyond our reach” given the ”great economic troubles” many countries are experiencing.
“We must be realistic about the opportunity of a breakthrough in Durban,” Ban said.
The impasse prompted European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard to issue a harsh rebuke of nations that have yet to agree to negotiate a legally-binding treaty by 2020. The Obama administration has opposed the E.U. proposal for negotiating a binding treaty, while China has sent mixed signals on it.
“One thing is that you are not ready now” to sign off on a legal climate treaty, she said, adding, “But you must tell us that you commit” to the concept of a binding pact.
“But if they even will not say that they will commit in the future, I think they take on an almost unbearable responsibility, because that will have very, very severe consequences for all of us.”