Kyoto Redux: Clinton Vows to Use Cabinet Position to Push for Climate Treaty

Change we can all believe in? How about the same song and dance, but just a different day?

In opening remarks at her confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations committee she would use the office to shape foreign policy that would fight climate change

“You Mr. Chairman [Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.] were among the very first in a growing chorus from both parties to recognize that climate change is an unambiguous security threat,” Clinton said. “At the extreme it threatens our very existence. But well before that point, it could well incite new wars of an old kind over basic resources – like food, water and arable land.”

According to Clinton, the upcoming 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Copenhagen will be the stage for the next opportunity for the United States to ratify a climate change treaty like the Kyoto Protocol, which was rejected by the U.S. Senate 95-0 in 1997.

“President-elect Obama has said America must be a leader in developing and implementing a global and coordinated response to climate change,” Clinton said. “We will participate in the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference and a global energy forum. And we’ll pursue an energy policy that reduces our carbon emissions while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas, fighting climate change and enhancing our economic and energy security.”

Many in the media have long pointed to the Copenhagen conference as the next best chance for an international treaty like Kyoto to be ratified by the U.S. government. Andrew Revkin, the climate reporter for The New York Times, noted this on the Times Dot Earth blog in late 2007.

“So the 100-year march trying to accelerate the decarbonization of energy systems has made another step along the road,” Revkin wrote. “The next big step will come in Copenhagen precisely two years from now. Will there be a Copenhagen Protocol? Who will be the president will shape the United States position, and — more important — actions?”

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, also used the hearing to promote the issue of global warming activism. He called it a “national security threat.”

“Before turning to Sen. Lugar, let me just say one thing about global climate change,” Kerry said. “Many today do not see global climate change as a national security threat, but it is – profoundly so.”

Kerry urged Clinton to be proactive in pursuing a climate change treaty with the upcoming conference in December.

“And the consequences of our inaction grow more serious by the day,” Kerry said. “In Copenhagen this December, we have a chance to forge a treaty that will profoundly affect the conditions of life on our planet itself. The resounding message from the recent climate change conference in Poland was that the global community is looking overwhelmingly to our leadership.”

Kerry also offered a peek into what his Senate chairmanship would have in store when it comes to dealing with this issue.

“This committee will be deeply involved in crafting a solution that the world can agree to and that the Senate can ratify,” Kerry continued. “And as we proceed the lesson of Kyoto must remain clear in our minds – all countries must be part of that solution.”

In February 2008, Kerry blamed a series of thunderstorms that killed at 50 people throughout the Southeastern United States on global warming and warned there would be more to come if global warming weren’t addressed.