At the beginning of the year, in the wake of superstorm Sandy and devastating droughts across the US, I predicted (and in truth, hoped!) that the resulting pressure on President Obama would make 2013 the year that climate change got reinstated on the global agenda.
That hint he gave in his November victory speech – of the need to address the “destructive power of a warming planet” – finally materialised last week with a three-pronged plan that will see carbon cuts from coal–fired power plants, federal funds for renewable energy technology, and investment to make US cities resilient to ravages of chaotic and extreme weather.
It’s too early to tell how this will positively affect the agenda in the long-term, but could this presidential prominence usher in renewed visibility for climate change?
At least one global icon was clearly impressed – in a tweet to coincide with the climax of the Rolling Stones’ latest US tour, Mick Jagger, said: “Was a great show in Washington DC last night ending our US tour. BTW I applaud President Obama’s new climate change plans, very refreshing.”
And even the World Bank couldn’t resist getting in on the act. The next day it announced that in efforts to curb carbon pollution it, too, would now only be financing coal-fired power plants in “rare circumstances”.
Notwithstanding the gravitas of their authors, it would be naive to overstate the enduring significance of what are essentially just two contiguous press announcements. But equally, if this does herald a more sustained commitment to the issue from Obama, could we finally see climate change – and meaningful efforts to address – bounce back into fashion?