British, EU, and US negotiators expect little from Copenhagen

Apparently, the United States has now made clear that they do not expect a climate deal to emerge at Copenhagen this year, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathering is to take place. This isn’t really news, but it is certainly disappointing. In a few years, I think people will look back regretfully at how much time, money and political energy were directed at the credit crunch, while the much more important problem of climate change mitigation was neglected.

A big part of the reason for the delay is certainly the difficulty the Obama administration has had getting a climate change bill through Congress. The Republicans deserve a lot of criticism for their caveman mentality on this issue. Their united opposition to meaningful action on climate change is irresponsible and a dereliction of duty, insofar as they are charged with defending the long-term welfare of the United States. While pricing carbon will cause short-term harm to certain industries now, it is the only way to kick off the sustained transition to a low-carbon economy that long-term prosperity ultimately depends upon.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

12 thoughts on “British, EU, and US negotiators expect little from Copenhagen”

  1. The conspiracy theory which states Global Warming was foreseen early by the elites, and that the plan is to use it (or environmental disasters more generally) as a way to produce a perpetual war-like state – just as in the past (and present, less successfully) war has been used as a tool of political control – does a good job of explaining the current political behavior.

  2. So does the much simpler theory that politicians are only rewarded for taking actions that produce apparent benefits when they are in office. If the costs are immediate and the benefits are remote and uncertain, you rarely win elections by taking action.

  3. Climate talks end in acrimony as UN and EU accuse US of endangering deal

    Yvo de Boer says US target is essential as poor countries threaten walk-out at Copenhagen

    John Vidal, Barcelona, Friday 6 November 2009 18.20 GMT

    The last formal negotiations before the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen concluded in acrimony today, with developing countries threatening to walk out of the December conference unless rich countries commit themselves to far greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

    While the countries remain officially optimistic that a strong global warming treaty can be struck, they are privately braced for a weak outcome which heads of state will sign, but the public and scientists will condemn as much too little to prevent catastrophic global warming.

    In addition, the US and Europe put themselves on a collision course with the world’s poorest countries by repeating demands that the existing Kyoto treaty be scrapped in favour of a single new international treaty.

    It was announced by the UN that more than 40 heads of state have agreed to go to Copenhagen, including Gordon Brown and others from Europe, Africa and South America, and many more are expected. It is recognition that the only way a legally binding deal will be concluded is with the highest level political involvement.

  4. Cautious optimism for Copenhagen deal as Barcelona climate talks end

    Is that sunlight peaking through? At the end of the Barcelona climate talks, delegates, observers, and NGOs all brushed off the pessimism that ruled the week and said there is still hope for a global deal in December. Still, as Keith Schneider writes, everyone is waiting for the Obama administration to step and say what it will commit to, and the admin is asking for more time.

  5. Harper’s attendance at climate conference depends on other leaders’ interest

    By David Akin, Canwest News ServiceNovember 14, 2009

    SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s aides say he will attend a key climate-change summit in Copenhagen next month – but only if it appears that other world leaders will attend.

    Environment Minister Jim Prentice is scheduled to lead Canada’s delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in mid-December.

    Leaders are working toward a deal that will be the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was initially adopted in 1997, and commit countries to lowering the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change.

    Harper – and other leaders, such as U.S. President Barack Obama – have faced recent calls, notably from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to attend the summit, which many environmental activists have characterized as the last, best chance to achieve agreements on meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases.

    At a meeting here of Pacific Rim leaders this weekend, climate change is on the agenda but it is being overshadowed by talks about the recession and free trade.

  6. Not-so-wonderful Copenhagen

    Nov 18th 2009 | NEW YORK
    A forthcoming climate-change summit will not produce a binding deal on emissions

    EXPECTATIONS for the Copenhagen climate conference, held next month in Denmark, have been steadily dwindling. On Sunday November 15th, as Barack Obama toured Asia, he and the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, quietly agreed what many had anticipated—that no binding agreement would be reached at the conference. There is now no hope of new legal targets for emissions-reductions to replace those set out in the Kyoto Protocol and which will lapse in 2012. Instead the pair suggested that the best to be expected is a political deal on cutting emissions.

    Some of the blame for this must be directed at Capitol Hill. Not only will Mr Obama now not sign a cap-and-trade bill before Copenhagen; the Senate is not even expected to pass one. The House of Representatives passed in June its version of cap-and-trade but the Senate, preoccupied by a debate over the reform of health care, has left climate talks to inch along slowly behind. John Kerry, one of the Senate’s cap-and-trade champions, now says he hopes for a vote on the bill only in the spring.

    But American congressmen are not alone in shouldering responsibility. Each tortuous round of negotiations ahead of Copenhagen has lengthened the list of issues up for debate. The negotiating text is now a snarl of material that few parties can agree upon. And big developing countries have been almost as immovable as America, at least publicly. China’s president said in September that his country would in time cut the amount of carbon dioxide it emits per unit of GDP by a “notable amount”. But Sun Guoshun, a Chinese diplomat in Washington, says that a figure is unlikely to emerge before Copenhagen. India (a much smaller polluter) has steadfastly resisted binding targets for poor countries. Many in Washington believe that America, just as it did at Kyoto, will not accept a deal that requires nothing concrete on emissions from the developing world.

  7. Rumors of Copenhagen’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

    Is Copenhagen really over before it begins? Had I moved to this dark, rainy (but beautiful!) city for no reason? Should we all just pack it up and hope that political declarations will solve it all?

    The answer, thankfully, quickly became a resounding “no.” As Grist’s own David Roberts is often the first to point out, the mainstream media clearly got it wrong. There’s still hope—a lot of it, at that.

    Let’s start with those headlines. Who are these “world leaders” who agreed to delay? Well, the plural may be accurate, but just barely.

    In the 48 hours since initial reports, as Ministers and other government representatives have trickled into Copenhagen for the “pre-COP” preparatory meeting, it’s become clear that while the media reported that all 19 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders were in agreement on the so-called “one agreement, two steps” approach, that’s not at all the case.

    The real story occurred at a hastily arranged APEC breakfast. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen made a last-minute visit and surprised the room with a speech that was only vetted by a few of the so-called “leaders.” One can only imagine a room full of bleary-eyed Heads of State sitting around a big table sipping their coffee and politely nodding at Rasmussen’s climate change speech without really understanding how their nods would be translated by the media.

  8. Gore predicts climate treaty by next year
    Last Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | 2:03 PM ET

    Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said Wednesday he’s optimistic that a global climate treaty will follow the Copenhagen conference next month.

    The environmental activist thinks some good will come out of the climate change conference even though “the expectations have been scaled back.”

    “I’m optimistic that partway through next year, we’ll have a treaty,” he told Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q. Gore also welcomed the news that U.S. President Barack Obama announced earlier in the day that he will attend the Copenhagen conference.

    David Suzuki, who joined Ghomeshi on the program, criticized Canada’s stance on climate change and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision not to attend the conference.

  9. Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure
    Deal thrashed out at talks condemned as climate change scepticism in action

    The UN climate summit reached a weak outline of a global agreement last night in Copenhagen, falling far short of what Britain and many poor countries were seeking and leaving months of tough negotiations to come.

    After eight draft texts and all-day talks between 115 world leaders, it was left to Barack Obama and Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, to broker a political agreement. The so-called Copenhagen accord “recognises” the scientific case for keeping temperature rises to no more than 2C but did not contain commitments to emissions reductions to achieve that goal.

    American officials spun the deal as a “meaningful agreement”, but even Obama said: “This progress is not enough.”

    “We have come a long way, but we have much further to go,” he added.

    The deal was brokered between China, South Africa, India, Brazil and the US, but late last night it was still unclear whether it would be adopted by all 192 countries in the full plenary session.

    The agreement aims to provide $30bn in funding for poor countries to adapt to climate change from next year to 2012, and $100bn a year after 2020.

    But it disappointed African and other vulnerable countries who had been holding out for far deeper emission cuts to hold the global temperature rise to 1.5C this century. As widely expected, all references to 1.5C in previous drafts were removed at the last minute, but more surprisingly, the earlier 2050 goal of reducing global CO2 emissions by 80% was also dropped.

  10. Scramble for the Atmosphere
    Posted December 18, 2009

    The useless, destructive talks at Copenhagen show that the treaty-making system has scarcely changed in 130 years.

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 18th December 2009

    First they put the planet in square brackets, now they have deleted it from the text. This is no longer about saving the biosphere: now it’s just a matter of saving face. As the talks melt down, everything that might have made a new treaty worthwhile is being scratched out. Any deal will do, as long as the negotiators can pretend they have achieved something. A clearer and less destructive treaty than the texts currently being discussed would be a sheaf of blank paper, which every negotiating party solemnly sits down to sign

    This is the chaotic, disastrous denouement of a chaotic and disastrous summit. The event has been attended by historic levels of incompetence. Delegates arriving from the tropics spent ten hours queuing in sub-zero temperatures without shelter, food or drink, let alone any explanation or announcement, before being turned away. Some people fainted from exposure; it’s surprising that no one died. The process of negotiation is just as obtuse: there’s no evidence here of the innovative methods of dispute resolution developed recently by mediators and coaches, just the same old pig-headed wrestling.

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