Climate change legislation, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, appears stalled in the Senate. Many conservatives in America simply don't want it.
"No country is more important than the United States in resolving these climate change issues," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hosted an important guest some weeks back. Moon is a strong voice on the need for mandated changes in greenhouse gas emissions.
But climate change legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, appears stalled in the Senate, in line behind healthcare and financial services reform. The bills would require cuts in U.S CO2 emissions.
Democratic Senator John Kerry says passage before Copenhagen won't happen. "We hope to be headed to Copenhagen with an outline at least of where our legislation is going at least on the floor of the Senate," he said.
Climate policy analyst Jake Schmidt says passing strong legislation promptly is crucial if the U.S. is to be a leader on the environment. "Well clearly before we are really credible players in international eyes, we have to have domestic legislation that enforces our commitments," he said.
The White House says the president will propose at Copenhagen a U.S. emissions target of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
David Kreutzer is an economist who tracks climate change for the conservative Heritage Foundation. He says the Senate bill faces hurdles, much like the bill in the House did.
"One of the problems is that the Waxman-Markey bill, the one in the House, passed only by 7 votes after a lot of wheeling and dealing and horse-trading and so on and that was right before the 4th of July break and it turned out it was fairly unpopular when legislators went home," he said.
Kreutzer and other conservatives insist that legislation curbing C02 emissions will cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars and do little to bring down global temperature.
Kreutzer urges President Obama to just say no in Copenhagen to binding mandates. "The real leadership that we should offer is to say this is a bad deal," he said. "This cutting carbon imposes a cost on the world economy that far exceeds any benefits."
Kreutzer is also against proposals for developed countries to help fund the clean up of developing nations. "The citizens of the United States aren't at all convinced that we have a global warming problem that is severe enough for a blank check solution," he stated.
Environmentalists like the Earth Policy Institute's Janet Larsen say this is dangerous talk. She's attending the conference in Copenhagen.
"The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at about 387 parts per million. That's a level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the world may not have seen in the last 50 million years, so we are clearly moving into un-charted territory," she said.
One of the goals of Copenhagen is to lay the groundwork for an international treaty that binds nations in the area of climate change. The Senate would have to ratify the treaty for it to take effect in the U.S.