Ministers and world leaders are beginning to arrive at Copenhagen and several are already dismayed by the lack of progress on key issues both in the lead up to Copenhagen and at the summit itself.
Ed Milliband, the British Minister, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Britain have both urged delegates to set aside differences are reach out for an agreement. Mr Blair recognized that the talks are most likely “one of the toughest negotiations that international leaders will ever have been involved in.” He also acknowledged the so-called Climategate scandal. He said “that the science around climate change is not as certain as its proponents allege”, but he went on to say “ it doesn’t need to be. What is beyond debate, however, is that there is a huge amount of scientific support for the view that the climate is changing and as a result of human activity.” Using the precautionary principle was appropriate, he observed, and he urged action now.
Meanwhile, China has signaled a challenge to the US both in terms of its emission targets and its willingness to provide finance to China, India and other countries for adapting to climate change. The chief negotiator for China want the US to go far beyond its commitment to cut emissions at 3% below 1990 levels and to offer substantial sums for adaptation by less developed countries, including China. He rejected the US negotiators position announced last week that China was not eligible for such funds.
China was also instrumental in the walk out on Monday by 130 countries, focused on process issues and the decision to abandon Kyoto. The Danish leaders at the summit confirmed that Kyoto was still on the table – something that will also displease the US.
So all eyes are now on the US and Barrak Obama, who arrives in Copenhagen on Friday. His lead Secretary of State for Energy gave a speech which was treated with some incredulity by most of the delegates. He used as examples of leading edge and breakthrough technologies things that have been in use for ten or more years. For examples, sensors that can measure the emission levels and heat footprints of any property – in use in the EU for a decade. It appears clear to many that, despite some gifted people and much improved rhetoric, the spirit of George W Bush is alive and well.
Something will happen between now and Friday. But it will have little to do with climate change.