The current thinking in the administration is that since the conference is not a "head of state" event, Obama will not attend. Obama will be accepting the Nobel Prize in Oslo on the second day of the Copenhagen conference and may use that platform to address climate change issues.
On big reason the Copenhagen conference is not a "head of state" event is because of the slow progress of climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate. Absent Senate passage of a climate change bill mandating a cap-and-trade system, Obama will have nothing to bring to Copenhagen as part of a U.S.-led effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a factor likely to undermine global efforts to curb those emissions.
"It's not likely to turn into a head of state meeting given the current legislative trajectory in the U.S. vis-a-vis energy policy," the administration official said.
Negotiations with India and China on setting and enforcing carbon pollution limits have become bogged down, complicating global efforts to produce a successor treaty to the Kyoto Pact the U.S. never ratified.
Todd Stern, the president's top climate change negotiator, will attend the Copenhagen conference for the administration.
Other top officials may join Stern if more progress is achieved in the coming weeks, an official said.