The challenges facing President Obama in the Copenhagen climate negotiations this week directly parallel the domestic and diplomatic constraints that troubled the Clinton administration more than a decade ago in the Kyoto talks, according to internal U.S. government documents from 1997 obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive.
The documents describe the internal Clinton administration discussions as split between those arguing for American leadership on climate change and those emphasizing the economic costs of aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The former group included State Department and Council on Economic Quality officials, while the Treasury Department led the skeptics and self-described "realists"--including President Obama's current economic adviser, Lawrence Summers. The same top White House aide, Todd Stern, led the negotiations both then and now.
Additional parallels evident in the Clinton-era documentation include the restraining effect of domestic politics (particularly the role of the U.S. Senate) and conflicts between U.S. positions and those of the European Union and, even more controversially, China, with its booming economy and growing emissions.
For more information, visit the Archive Web site: www.nsarchive.org