The "will they or won't they" sign-an-agreement theme that has so far defined the framing of December's international climate treaty talks is evaporating. In just the past few days, several world leaders -- including President Obama -- have stated emphatically that no final treaty would come out of this round of negotiations.
With this easy story hook no longer available to journalists, I asked two climate policy experts, presenters here at today's E3 Midwest energy conference, how they would want the media to reorient their coverage of the talks.
is director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. [Which, full disclosure, publishes the magazine, Momentum, that assigned me to blog and tweet this conference. - Emily]
Okay, so "will they or won't they" is no longer the defining question for journalists covering the climate treaty talks in December. If you could have your wish for how they would re-position their reporting, what would you ask for?
Hamilton: I'd like them to ask: What actions other developed nations are putting on the table, their 2020 targets? And developing nations?
What is the official US delegation saying about 2020 [greenhouse gas emissions reductions] targets? Are they talking about the reductions that are in the Senate bill?
These are the kinds of things the developed countries have had a lot of time to think about.
Foley: And, what China's going to say, too. Because that will have a lot of repercussions for what we do afterwards.
There have to be targets for our intermediate future; 2020 is perfect.
Hamilton: Because that's when you know this country is serious about turning its engine around. Developing countries are bringing things to the table.
Foley: Brazil is so dominated by hydropower and sugar cane ethanol, they're probably the developing country in the best position in the world.
Hamilton: [Commitments to greenhouse gas emissions cuts from developing nations] gives ammunition to the US Senate. There will be efforts to weaken that short term target [in the Senate]. If you can say, the developing countries have that target, and they have to be strong --
Foley: And if China and India and Brazil really step up to this. That's the excuse folks [in the US] have used to delay climate legislation.
What about this talk of a two-step treaty process? Is it realistic. Is it likely?
Hamilton: That's fine. The US role in the treaty is that the [negotiators] will adopt what the Senate passes and the president signs.
Foley: If Copenhagen can provide more assurances that the developing world is going to be on board, and we're not going to be bearing all the costs of this, [then that improves the chances for passage of climate legislation in the US]...
Any other wishes for what journalists will write about during the Copenhagen climate talks in December?
Hamilton: Any signs the media can look for that this is not about the US acting unilaterally.
We want strong signs from our delegation that we're not an outlier, that we want to be a leader with the intermediate targets [for emissions reductions] and the climate assistance to developing nations. That we want to be on board with the rest of the world.