President Barack Obama and other world leaders agreed today that next month’s much-anticipated climate change summit will be merely a way station, not the once hoped-for end point, in the search for a worldwide global warming treaty.
The 192-nation climate conference beginning in three weeks in Copenhagen had originally been intended to produce a new global climate-change treaty. Hopes for that have dimmed lately. But comments by Obama and fellow leaders at a hastily arranged breakfast meeting here on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit served to put the final nail in any remaining expectations for the December summit.
“There was an assessment by the leaders that it is unrealistic to expect a full internationally, legally binding agreement could be negotiated between now and Copenhagen which starts in 22 days,” said Michael Froman, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economic matters.
The prime minister of Denmark, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the U.N.-sponsored climate conference’s chairman, flew overnight to Singapore to present a proposal to the leaders to instead make the Copenhagen goal a matter of crafting a “politically binding” agreement, in hopes of rescuing some future for the struggling process.
A fully binding legal agreement would be left to a second meeting next year in Mexico City, Froman said.
Obama backed the approach, cautioning the group not to let the “perfect be the enemy of the good,” Froman said. Addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum later, Obama talked of the need to limit greenhouse-gas emissions “in Copenhagen and beyond.”
Froman said the Danish proposal would call for Copenhagen to produce “operational impact,” but he did not explain how that would work or to what it would apply.
Despite the cooperative-sounding words, the two-year process of crafting a landmark treaty has been stymied by deep distrust between rich, developed nations and poorer developing nations such as India, Brazil and China.
The developed nations hold that all countries must agree to legally binding targets to reduce heat-trapping gases. Developing countries say they can make reductions a goal but not a requirement, and they want more money from wealthy nations to help them make the transition.
A major bill dealing with energy and climate in the U.S., a domestic priority of Obama’s, is bogged down in the U.S. Senate with scant hope it would be completed by next month, giving the American president little to show in Copenhagen.
Between that and the developments in Singapore, there may be little reason for Obama to travel there. White House aides had been saying privately that the outcome of talks during Obama’s weeklong Asia trip, including a three-day visit to China that starts Sunday night, would help determine whether Obama might go to Copenhagen.
Obama arrived late Saturday night in Singapore for the annual 21-nation APEC summit that had begun without him early that morning. In remarks to the group today, Obama reached out by announcing that he would host the 2011 gathering in his native Hawaii.
Once again, take this story with a grain of salt. They may well press ahead with a full-blown treaty and a politically binding” agreement can cause all kinds of havoc as well. – GCS Editior