Just about a month remains before December’s culminating UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen (COP15) – the last five days of pre-COP15 talks are taking place this week in Barcelona. The hope, once, was that the over 190 participating nations would be ready by December to nail down the details of an international climate treaty (read: individual nations’ carbon cut targets, plus an agreement as to how much financial support developed nations will give developing nations for climate change adaptation). But Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), now says that’s just not in the cards.
“Mr. de Boer acknowledged that it would be ‘physically impossible, under any scenario’ to complete a comprehensive climate treaty in Copenhagen. But he said the meeting of more than 190 nations ‘must see the end of negotiation and the beginning of technical process to work out all the details.’”
Do Boer’s extremely candid public acknowledgement that negotiations are behind schedule and hitting roadblocks does not bode well. The Kyoto Protocol (which the US declined to sign in ‘97, cough cough) expires in 2012 - seems far off, doesn't it? You’d think we’ve got oodles of time to get the details of a new international climate treaty ironed out. Not so. While de Boer is adjusting his hopes and expectations to the arduous negotiation process nations realistically face, he maintains that the details of a treaty will have to be nailed down during 2010, if it’s to be ready to be put in place by the time Kyoto expires.
Certainly, de Boer must and should view negotiations with a pragmatic eye. But what good does it do to decide now, in Barcelona, that we’ll never make our deadline at COP15? Shouldn’t leaders try, as they take a last stab at lead-up talks this week, to keep the eye on the prize, rather than prematurely admiting defeat? What about the audacity of hope?