The Evolving U.S. Politics of Climate Change

Nigel Purvis
Nigel Purvis Former Brookings Expert

September 9, 2004

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. I’m very grateful to the organizers of this symposium for inviting me here to share some thoughts on what’s happening in the United States on the issue of climate change, what the implications of the domestic politics of climate change are for the international regime, and options for the future.

My subject is inherently more political and less quantitative than the very excellent presentation provided by Dr. van Elsen earlier, so forgive me if I provide only some general slides and offer just some comments based on my own practical experience as a career diplomat and negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 until the Marrakesh Conference in 2001.

I’d like to begin by saying that I’m sympathetic to people who, when they purchase a book, like to open the last page and find out how it ends. So let me give you a few thoughts about where I’m going and that will provide a little bit of context about the comments I’ll be making. The punch-line, or conclusion, of my presentation is that there’s a lot happening in the United States and it’s real cause for optimism. If we examine where we thought we might have been shortly after President Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, I think most commentators would agree that we’ve gone farther in the last two years than we would have predicted. So that’s very encouraging.