Thursday, 17 December 2009

Down to the Wire

Well, this is it. The world's eyes have been on the Copenhagen conference for over a week now. World leaders are arriving now and final negotiations are taking place in the lead up to tomorrow's conclusion of the conference. Publicly, emissions targets have changed little from the proposals made leading up to the meeting. Many leaders are trying to lower expectations, while protests and demands by leaders of third world nations are increasing.

There have been protests around the world, including large ones in Copenhagen itself, both throughout the city and within the conference centre. Despite this, however, some countries, especially Canada and the US, continue to be impediments to a strong and fair deal. Most developing countries are taking a united stance, though some dirty dealings are attempting to split African unity. This type of divide and conquer strategy needs to be resisted, especially by countries that will most dramatically feel the consequences of global warming.

The outcome of this conference is very important and the results could have a major impact on the future of the planet, as well as the strategies and tactics that will be needed to fight climate change. There appears to be three likely outcomes at this point. One, a deal could simply collapse, with no major agreements being made, and at best, perhaps a commitment to try again next year. This would obviously be a disaster.
Second, a strong and fair agreement could be reached. There is no possibility that even a relatively strong agreement will go far enough in reducing emissions, in terms of actually matching what the latest scientific data says is necessary. Still, with a good starting point, we will at least have something to build on, and efforts can be made to quickly tighten up targets in the near future.

The third possibility is perhaps even worse than if the talks were to collapse. A very weak deal could be signed, with poor targets, little funding for third world countries, and plenty of loopholes. A deal like this, with the US and Canada committing only to 3 or 4 percent reductions, would not only be disastrous for the environment, it might prevent any further progress in the next decade. We would be locked into a scenario where global warming would be permitted to seriously escalate.

Whatever the outcome, if there is not a strong deal that can be built upon, this will likely have a significant impact on the future strategy of activists and developing nations. If working within the system and within the rules doesn't work, other approaches will be needed. If the US and other Western countries do not agree to voluntarily reduce emissions significantly, other measures will be needed to pressure or force them to do so.

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