Shortly after finishing up this week’s Nature story (subscription required) on the upcoming climate talks in Poland, I finally secured an interview with US Ambassador Harlan Watson, the United States’ chief climate negotiator.
His folks gave me five minutes, and I began with the basics: What is your role in Poznan, given the pending administration change and the resulting shift in US position at the talks? Not surprisingly, if you ask an obvious question, you get an obvious answer. “This administration is in until January,” Watson reminded me.
Fair enough. But in a year like this one, marked by truly historic elections that have ushered in such a radical change in governing philosophy, it’s hard not to dispense with the present and begin thinking about what comes next: Barack Obama. Washington is abuzz with politics these days, very little of which pertains to President George W. Bush and his administration.
Given that President-Elect Obama has already promised to become a leader in the climate talks and overturn eight years of US opposition to mandatory carbon regulations, we’ll likely see the same phenomenon during the talks in Poznan. But in truth, this was never going to be a year for striking deals.
Watson says the US team will continue to work its way through the process, focusing on adaptation, emissions, clean-technology development and the like. “In general, our goal is to move the process along and keep all of the options open for the new administration,” he said.
So goes the peaceful transfer of power, always worth noting.
Keep an eye out for updates. In addition to this week’s overview, I’ll be tracking things from afar next week and then flying into Poznan for the second week of the conference.
For all the news from the Poznan conference, check out Nature’s main conference blog here.