Thursday, December 17, 2009

World leaders remain far from a deal in Copenhagen

THE COPENHAGEN climate conference set to wrap up Friday was supposed to produce a landmark accord on climate change. It won't. Hopes for a binding treaty died weeks before the meeting. And with some observers terming the proceedings "Constipagen," it's all too easy to wonder whether the conferees will even be able to conclude a less ambitious political agreement. Negotiators have gone in procedural circles for nearly two weeks, and, on some issues, consensus looks even more distant than before. With heads of state arriving as you read this editorial, what can the conference produce in its final stage?

The big fissures generally lie between rich and poor. Developing nations variously want rich countries to commit to emissions cuts on the order of 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020; to provide at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, curb deforestation and decrease the carbon intensity of their development; and to preserve the Kyoto Protocol, as of now the only binding treaty on climate change, even though it obliges neither the United States nor China -- nor, for that matter, any developing nation -- to curb greenhouse pollution.
Developed countries appear ready to provide about $10 billion annually for the next few years to help poor nations adapt to climate change, among other things. But they shouldn't commit to much more without some critical concessions, particularly from the big emitters that will account for so much future emissions growth, notably China. Such developing nations should not be expected to deliver the same reduction in emissions as rich nations do, but the promises they do make should be just as binding. They, along with industrialized nations, must be required to report their emissions and be subject to robust international monitoring and verification. That also goes for those countries participating in any international anti-deforestation scheme. Otherwise, the system will be far too easy to game.
These concessions are necessary not only on logical grounds. They are essential for the United States to even come close to meeting one of the developing world's primary demands: That it cut its emissions significantly by 2020. Global-warming legislation doesn't have a chance in the Senate unless President Obama comes home with believable commitments from China, India and others. Read more.

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