To Boost Deal, Obama Changes Copenhagen Plans

President Obama is changing the time of his appearance at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The White House said Obama will visit Denmark on Dec. 18, at the summit's more crucial phase, instead of next week.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Tonight, the White House announced an abrupt change in the president's plans for the climate summit in Copenhagen. Mr. Obama had planned to show up next week for the summit's start. Now, he will attend what could be an exciting finish.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from the White House. Scott, why the schedule change?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Well, Michele, this indicates the White House thinks they're making progress, not towards a binding treaty on climate change - that's pretty much off the table - but at least progress towards a political deal, which would be a big step. Since President Obama first announced plans to attend the kickoff of the summit and said the U.S. would cut its own carbon output, both China and India have stepped forward to make their offers. Now, China and India are not talking about absolute limits on carbon, like the U.S. and European countries are, but they are talking about dialing back their emissions, and that's been encouraging to the White House.

In a statement tonight, the White House cited progress that's been made to give momentum to the negotiations. And given that apparent progress, the president thinks it's important that he be there in Copenhagen at the end to help close any deal.

NORRIS: Well, there was this other stumbling block, the question of how much rich countries are willing to pay to help poor countries deal with climate change. Is there a movement on that front?

HORSLEY: You know, one of the complaints we've heard in earlier international gatherings is that the rich countries weren't putting money on the table to help poor countries either clean up their own carbon emissions or to deal with the fallout from climate change.

After talking this week with the leaders of Germany, France, Britain and Australia, Mr. Obama feels there is an emerging consensus that the developed countries should kick in something like $10 billion a year starting in 2012. And what's more, the White House says the U.S. would pay its fair share of that total, and that other countries are also expected to put money on the table.

NORRIS: Seems that the White House is pretty confident. Is there a risk for the president in raising the stakes like this?

HORSLEY: Oh, yes. Definitely, there's a risk. And, you know, we all remember what happened the last time President Obama went to Copenhagen to cheerlead for Chicago's Olympic bid and he came home empty handed. But, you know, this is not a president who shies away from risk, by any means.

Now, he is still going to go to Norway next week to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, and he was going to combine that with the climate meeting. So, one downside of this change in schedule is now Air Force One is going to have to make not one but two roundtrips across the Atlantic, and of course, that's going to generate some greenhouse gases.

NORRIS: Interesting observation. Scott, thank you very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Michele.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Scott Horsley speaking to us from the White House.

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