Energy chief Chu and Agriculture secretary Vilsack headed to Cancun
While Cancun may not be attracting many heads of state this year, the Obama administration is dispatching two Cabinet secretaries and a senior environmental official to the United Nations climate talks.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley will all make the trip, State Department officials said Monday. While the administration has yet to give details about the visit, it's a safe bet that Chu will discuss some of his department's efforts to improve energy efficiency and promote low-carbon energy. Vilsak will tout the administration's actions to preserve U.S. and international forests. And Sutley will outline Obama's efforts to lower the federal government's carbon footprint.
"These individuals will be participating in events that underscore our own collective and their agency's specific role in transitions to clean energy economies and securing a comprehensive global response to this challenge," Jonathan Pershing, a U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said in a press briefing Monday.
Pershing also shed a little light on how the administration hopes to achieve its pledge to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent compared with 2005 levels in the next decade. Broad climate legislation has collapsed in the United States and shows no sign of passing anytime soon.
"We think it may be not necessarily be only comprehensive legislation, but perhaps elements in energy or elements in other environmental activities that could also move us in that direction," Pershing told reporters. "But it could be complemented by programs in regulation, programs that deal with executive orders that the president can issue, programs that are underway at the state level and, frankly, shifts in the U.S. energy sector."
Amid all the talk of low expectations, Pershing said, Cancun could still deliver tangible results when it comes to addressing the world's rising greenhouse gas emissions.
"A balanced package is within our reach," he said. "To grasp it, we must be pragmatic, we must be flexible, and we must stand behind the underpinnings of what our leaders agreed to last year."
| November 30, 2010; 10:49 AM ET
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