Leaked Confidential Document Reveals Obama's Climate Strategy


Photo via the Guardian

The Guardian has obtained a confidential document accidentally left on a hotel computer in Europe by a member of the Obama administration. The British newspaper says it "reveals the US government's increasingly controversial strategy in the global UN climate talks." They've reproduced the entire document online--but what does the classified paper reveal about US plans for brokering a climate agreement on the international stage? I'll include the entirety of the document below, as well . . .The paper is titled 'Strategic Communications Objectives' and appears to outline the Obama administration's plans for conveying its climate goals to the public in the months preceding the next major round of climate talks in Cancun, Mexico this November.

The Guardian writes:

Top of the list of objectives is to: "Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change." It also talks of "managing expectations" of the outcome of the Cancun meeting and bypassing traditional media outlets by using podcasts and "intimate meetings" with the chief US negotiator to disarm the US's harsher critics.

But the key phrase is in paragraph three where the author writes: "Create a clear understanding of the CA's [Copenhagen accord's] standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements."

So I guess the titillating stuff here is that the US's strategy appears to hinge on pushing for the Copenhagen Accord to be ratified as a whole, refusing to adopt a piecemeal approach (and perhaps that it may have invented the word 'operationalising'). The Guardian writes of the US's more controversial approach to climate negotiations--it recently took the position that it will deny climate aid to countries that refuse the treaty--and argues that this framework underlines that hardline approach.

I don't see too much that is very controversial in this document itself--it actually looks to me to be a pretty solid plan on managing communications. Decide for yourself: here's the entirety of the leaked document, via the Guardian:

Strategic communications objectives

  1. Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change. This includes support for a symmetrical and legally binding treaty.

  2. Manage expectations for Cancun - Without owning the message, advance the narrative that while a symmetrical legally binding treaty in Mexico is unlikely, solid progress can be made on the six or so main elements.

  3. Create a clear understanding of the CA's standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements.

  4. Build and maintain outside support for the administration's commitment to meeting the climate and clean energy challenge despite an increasingly difficult political environment to pass legislation.

  5. Deepen support and understanding from the developing world that advanced developing countries must be part of any meaningful solution to climate change including taking responsibilities under a legally binding treaty.

Media outreach

  • Continue to conduct interviews with print, TV and radio outlets driving the climate change story.

  • Increase use of off-the-record conversations.

  • Strengthen presence in international media markets during trips abroad. Focus efforts on radio and television markets.

  • Take greater advantage of new media opportunities such as podcasts to advance US position in the field bypassing traditional media outlets.

  • Consider a series of policy speeches/public forums during trips abroad to make our case directly to the developing world.

Key outreach efforts

  • Comprehensive and early outreach to policy makers, key stakeholders and validators is critical to broadening support for our positions in the coming year.

  • Prior to the 9-11 April meeting in Bonn it would be good for Todd to meet with leading NGOs. This should come in the form of 1:1s and small group sessions.

  • Larger group sessions, similar to the one held at CAP prior to Copenhagen, will be useful down the line, but more intimate meetings in the spring are essential to building the foundation of support. Or at the very least, disarming some of the harsher critics.

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