Lack of will


It is now almost certain that the climate change meeting at Copenhagen next month will not produce a final agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The message from the recent Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit is that the world may have to look beyond Copenhagen for a consensus and the meeting next month will at best result in a statement of intentions. These intentions might also be couched in such general terms that they may not even serve as a good road map. That is the import of the statement of Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, who will chair the Copenhagen meet, that we need to expect only a political declaration there.

The bilateral expression of support for a comprehensive deal, made during US President Barack Obama’s visit to China, does not change this scenario. Both countries, which are key players in climate change negotiations, and other important participants like Russia and Canada had all agreed at the APEC meet that enough preparations had not been made for a successful outcome at Copenhagen, though discussions are being held for many years. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that there are significant areas of disagreement which cannot be sorted out in the next three weeks.

The US too has said that it is not ready for the deal because an enabling legislation is still stuck in the US Congress. The legal hurdle is symptomatic of the continuing US refusal to accept binding caps on emissions without such targets being set for developing countries. The expectation that the Obama administration has a different approach to climate change has not been supported by actions and policies. European countries, which had once accepted the principle of differentiated responsibility, have shown signs of dithering, as seen at last fortnight’s EU summit. There is also no progress on the proposals for funding developing countries’ efforts at mitigation and transfer of clean technologies.

According to present indications another summit is being planned to be held in Bonn or Mexico City next year, which may take forward whatever decisions are taken at Copenhagen. But there cannot be any substantial progress unless there is a major change of attitude and policies on the part of the developed countries.

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