Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern
Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern - 
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Scott Jagow: Former Vice President Al Gore testifies before Congress this morning on the status of U.N. climate talks, which come to a head next December in Copenhagen. President Obama declared this week that "America is ready to lead" on climate issues. But that leadership may bring big changes in how a new global climate deal is forged. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

Sam Eaton: President Obama's appointment this week of a high-profile climate envoy marks a sharp break from the Bush administration.

Bill Antholis is managing director of the Brookings Institution. He says the two presidents did agree on one thing:

Bill Antholis: There is a need to cut through the lengthy wait of bureaucratic negotiations.

President Bush attempted to do just that, bypassing the cumbersome U.N. negotiations with a smaller summit of 20 major emitters, including China and India.

Antholis: So George Bush had that right. The part that George Bush didn't have right is that they actually have to agree to do something.

The Bush administration never did support mandatory reductions in emissions. And this is where the Obama administration differs. Like Bush, Obama's new top climate negotiator, Todd Stern, prefers to forge a climate deal through a smaller group of major emitters. But unlike Bush, the goal is to create binding agreements, not voluntary ones.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam