On December 7th, representatives of 192 countries will meet in Copenhagen to try to reach consensus on climate change.
The COP15 Summit will aim to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was meant to have set the standard for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which the majority of the scientific community blames for global warming that is melting the polar ice caps, aggravating droughts and causing fear of inundation of low-lying island nations.
Kyoto, however, is a voluntary agreement. It has not been ratified by the USA – one of the major producers of greenhouse gases – while developing nations like India and China (also big polluters) have yet to commit because they argue that their economies are not strong enough to finance ‘green’ technology.
Negotiations are being carried out under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Closing the high-level Summit on Climate Change, held in New York in September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Copenhagen deal must be comprehensive, and ensure:
• Enhanced action to assist the most vulnerable and the poorest to adapt to the impacts of climate change;
• Ambitious emission-reduction targets for industrialised countries;
• Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support;
• Significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources; and
• An equitable governance structure.
The challenge, however, is a daunting one. The free-market ideology that drives so many western governments argues that blaming global warming on industrialisation is simplistic and penalising industry to force it to ‘go green’ will damage economies and cause widespread unemployment. Developing nations are likely to want significant financial aid from richer countries to help reduce their pollution levels.
Then there are the sceptics who continue to argue (albeit as a shrinking minority) that global warming is unsubstantiated scaremongering perpetrated by the Green political movement.
With all the domestic pressures on delegates, COP15 faces a big task to get agreement on something this significant in just 11 days.