According to an article on the BBC, the US will announce an emissions reduction goal before the Copenhagen conference next month.
While the expected numbers are nothing too drastic, for once in the last decade, it shows the US taking leadership on environmental responsibility and action. Hopefully, with the announcement of the US at long last setting reductions goals, China, India, and other countries will finally feel an obligation to begin reducing their emissions. Yes, the US is responsible for the bulk of global emissions. However, other countries are rapidly beginning to achieve US levels of consumption, and the corresponding emissions. Most of China does not have the mechanization or commercial items that the US does, but their emissions on a per-year basis now exceed the US. India is closing the gap. And this gap will only become more pronounced as these two, very large, educated, and increasingly wealthy countries begin to increase the number and wealth of people in the middle class.
However, US action might help forestall this. There are two key elements I see going into the Copenhagen conference: binding US emissions goals, and assistance to developing countries. The first will be harder to push through Congress. Too many Senators and Representatives are willing to turn their backs on revolutionizing the American economy and on science in the face of listening to the masses. Or Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, two well-known and respected scientists…
The other point, developing countries, require a revolution in how foreign assistance is handed out. Rather than food aid, improved methods of growing crops, technological assistance, and other forms of long-term solutions should be used. Additionally, clean distributed technologies should be emphasized in place of central station power plants. This will help reduce government control over areas (potentially aiding democracy), reduce environmental impacts from running transmission, and in the long-term has little cost outside of panel / turbine installation (PV in particular, since wind turbines have moving parts, there are more O&M costs). This has the added benefit of reducing emissions (in the case where renewable energy can replace burning wood or other resources for cooking and lighting), and helping provide the benefits of electrification.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of both the US, and Copenhagen, but I don’t have my hopes up in either case. But maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.