Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama's squeaks out a deal.

Obama has called it "meaningful" and "a first step", which was the first sign that Copenhagen might not have delivered everything that we all hoped for.

Known as the Copenhagen Accord, the new agreement falls massively short of the ambitions many people had centred on the two-week meeting in the Danish capital, in the hope of a major new effort to combat the global warming threat. Although in principle it commits – for the first time – all the countries of the world, including the developing countries, to cut their emissions of the greenhouse gases which are causing climate change, the accord is not legally binding, merely a political statement.

They key timetable for turning it into a legal instrument by this time next year, which is what the world desperately needs so that cuts in CO2 emissions really are carried out, was dropped from the text during the immensely difficult and seemingly-intractable talks which lasted all day and late into the evening. In effect, that makes it toothless. Mr Obama himself admitted that a binding deal would be "hard to achieve".
I think Obama is right when he states that this will be "hard to achieve", especially as India and China are being asked to cut back on emissions at a time when some of their population are still without electricity.

The hope here is that, like the Clean Air Act, this agreement will signal the start of something which will be built upon later.

The usual right wing nutters are expressing glee, but then they don't even believe in the concept of global warming anyway, so they would have attacked any outcome which Copenhagen came to.

But there are hints at just how difficult the negotiations got:

The day's most remarkable feature was a direct and unprecedented personal clash between the US President, Barack Obama, and the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, in which Mr Wen took deep offence at Mr Obama's insistence – in public – that the Chinese should allow their promised cuts in greenhouse gases to be internationally verified. When the President, in an unyielding speech, said that without international verification "any agreement would be empty words on a page", that was too much for Mr Wen. He left the conference in Copenhagen's Bella Centre, returned to his hotel in the city, and responded with a direct snub of his own – he sent low-level delegates to take his place in the talks.

A high-level source told The Independent that the US President was amazed when he found who he was negotiating with, and clearly regarded Mr Wen's absence as a major diplomatic insult. He snapped: "It would be nice to negotiate with somebody who can make political decisions" although last night urgent diplomatic efforts were underway to try to bring the two leaders face to face for a second round of talks, to patch up the disagreement.

So, it is easy to be disappointed at how little was actually achieved; but, after the years of the Bush administration, in which the US refused to even ratify Kyoto, we should acknowledge the fact that an agreement has been reached at all.

It is only "a first step" and we would all like to have seen more achieved. But, should McCain have been elected US president, I doubt we would have seen anything achieved at all.

Let's be grateful for small mercies and hope that this is the first of many steps to be taken.

Click here for full article.

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