The Copenhagen Climate Fiasco

We face not just an economic disaster but also an ecological one.  So, how are we doing on the latter?  Unfortunately, not very well.  And the reason is that those with power appear determined to block any solutions that threaten their power, regardless of the broader consequences.

Developments at the Copenhagen climate conference are telling.

While we in the US are reading the story in the New York Times about Danish police seizing protest equipment, people in other countries are reading about a very different protest.

For example, the Guardian newspaper reports:

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol’s principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol – the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as “a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks”.

Read the rest of the article here.

Here is the Sydney Morning Herald’s report on the Chinese negotiator’s response to the document:

Angry developing countries said the document was the work of rich nations who wanted to abandon the existing Kyoto Protocol, which is not mentioned in the draft, and its principle of only industrialised nations taking on emissions targets due to their historic responsibility for climate change.

It prompted a furious rebuke to rich nations from China. In a surreal press conference in a cramped room next to the Chinese delegation office, chief negotiator Su Wei claimed he was unaware of the leaked Danish proposal that had hijacked the mood of the convention centre while attacking the European Union, Japan and the US for claiming they were acting on climate change while doing very little.

In a detailed analysis of the flaws of rich nations’ 2020 targets, he said Europe had already done more to limit emissions under the flawed Kyoto Protocol than it proposed to do under a Copenhagen pact, Japan’s proposed 25 per cent cut was meaningless because it had set conditions that would never be met and the US had promised a “remarkable and notable” emissions target but proposed only a provisional 1 per cent cut below 1990 levels.

“I’m not very good at English, but I doubt whether just a 1 per cent reduction can be described as remarkable or notable,” he said.

He said the $US10 billion annual green fund, that has won wide support at the conference and is included in the draft Danish agreement, worked out to just $2 per person across the planet – not enough to buy a coffee in Copenhagen, or a coffin.

“Climate change is a life and death issue,” he said.

Read the full article here.


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