One of the items high on President Obama's to-do list is re-engaging in the international community. Fittingly, he's set his first official foreign visit to Ottawa, Canada. Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is high on the list of climate bad guys, especially considering the high level of concern among the Canadian public, Canada's vulnerability to climate impacts, and its high contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.
While relations between President Bush and Prime Minister Harper were cozy, Obama and Harper aren't cut from the same cloth when it comes to policy positions. It is likely they will enjoy a strong relationship, and so one hopes it will yield a positive outcome for North American commitment to climate action.
As Canadians look toward potentially another election before the Copenhagen talks, there may be significant movement in the Canadian climate position. There is much activity on the provincial level, including a recent decision in Ontario to phase out coal burning by 2014. That's a very impressive target, and a model for what must happen elsewhere to reach 350 ppm.
We have high hopes for Obama and Harper's meeting on February 19, and look forward to working with Canadian allies on securing a positive outcome from it.