On the final day of the UN Climate Change Conference in Barcelona, delegations have begun looking toward Copenhagen where a climate change conference will again take place in one month’s time. Since the Bali conference in 2007, the world has counted on Copenhagen to deliver a legally binding treaty to combat global warming.
Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, acknowledged that though such a treaty is now impossible to achieve, he still expects measurable progress in Copenhagen.
“Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change—nothing has changed my confidence in that,” De Boar said. “A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen.”
De Boar, the UN’s top climate change official, also acknowledged he shares the frustration of the African nations that walked out of negotiations this week in Barcelona. The walkout was the most visible sign that the road to Copenhagen and beyond is marred with rich nations’ failure to make sufficient commitments, ones supported by science, both in terms of emission reductions and financial aid to poor countries, to combat global warming.
“I look to industrialized countries to raise their ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge we face,” said De Boer. “And I look to industrialized nations for clarity on the amount of short and long-term finance they will commit.”
The U.S. delegation to Barcelona, headed by Dr. Jonathan Pershing, who was the senior official of climate policy under the Clinton Administration, explained the American position in a press conference shortly following Mr. De Boar’s.
According to Pershing, who pointed out the $80 billion allocated to green projects in the stimulus package and new automobile efficiency standards, the U.S. will rely primarily on the Congress to set emission reduction levels.
More fundamentally, the U.S. does not seem to accept the conventional distinction between rich and poor countries, preferring instead to talk about major and minor emitters, a distinction which brings poor countries with large populations, such as India and China, into the same category as the U.S.
Even before official invitations have been sent, over 40 heads of state, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have announced their intention to attend the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
No word as yet if Obama will attend.