It looks like the COP15 talks in Copenhagen will end about like most of us thought: some progress, some promises, some momentum. Not enough, of course. But at least this time the United States is on record as a participant, instead of being an international rogue as it was with Kyoto.
Is it all bullshit? Our pals at the Breakthrough Institute think so. We agree, mostly. International confabs like this are about 90% bullshit and 10% real. Most of the 14,500 hangers-on at Copenhagen are posers, delighted to score a fleeting PR / media hit. And the real negotiators are mostly trying to cover their own political and economic back-sides.
Climate activists who insist we need to get to 350 ppm CO2 by 2100 will be disappointed with Copenhagen. They shouldn’t be. Indeed, we may not get to 350 any time soon, but the de-carbonization of our global economy is now an assumed goal. It wasn’t ten years ago. That’s progress, however anemic.
Look, developed and developing countries have huge differences, and about the only power that poor nations have is to disrupt and delay at Copenhagen. They’ve done this, all the while fighting among themselves, until Hilary Clinton threw them a bone – a $100 billion adaptation fund (to commence in 2020!). The strangest thing about all this was the grave headlines reporting serious impasses, without mentioning that this is standard procedure for international negotiations.
Will Obama and China’s Wen Jiabao unveil any dramatic commitments when they speak on 18 December? Not likely, but they’ll encourage the process to go forward – however slowly – with some back-side-covering caveats. Meanwhile, the real action will be elsewhere: cities, states, regions and the private sector will come up with solutions faster than international diplomats and the interest groups that heckle them.