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The climate conference

BY SIMEON TALLEY | DECEMBER 15, 2009 7:30 AM

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The climate-change talks taking place in Copenhagen are on life support. One week into the conference — and with one week to go — progress toward a worthwhile climate deal has been slow. In order to salvage the conference, negotiators will have to double down in order to reach a deal.

Monday’s major news was a group of African nations walking out on negotiations and in dramatic fashion — late in the evening hour — choosing to come back to the negotiating table. Last week, news outlets reported that the Danish government had met with a group of rich nations — including the United States — outside the formal process and agreed to a draft text. Several poor nations were angered by what they perceived as a backroom deal that favored rich nations. The mood has been sour and souring ever since, culminating in today’s walkout.

The walkout by African nations would have made a Copenhagen deal impossible, and it reflects long-held divisions. Organized as the G-77, developing nations want developed nations to commit to 40-45 percent emissions reductions from 1990 levels by 2020. And if you’ve been following international negotiations at all, you know that developed countries so far have committed to considerably less. The United States’ commitment to a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 is estimated to be only a 3-4 percent reduction from 1990 CO2 levels. And hell is more likely to freeze over before a change in the United States’ position.

G-77 countries want more ambition in the areas of emissions reductions and adaptation financing. So far, developed countries haven’t budged. With one week to go and only two days until heads of state start to roll in, negotiators have to find a way to reach a consensus in order for the conference to have a positive outcome.

A European Union commissioner characterized the atmosphere as “frozen.” And that’s a fairly accurate description of where we currently stand.


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