Leading article: There is still hope for real progress at Copenhagen

The US and China moved in the right direction on emissions this week

Share
Related Topics

When it comes to international summits, management of expectations is often the name of the game. No political leader wants to over-promise and then have to return home with their tail between their legs when they don't secure what they wanted.

And in the world of international summitry, no show is bigger than the United Nations Climate Change summit in Copenhagen, scheduled to begin on 7 December.

In recent weeks, world leaders have been busy downplaying public expectations about Copenhagen's chances of producing a successor to the Kyoto protocol. But the mood has changed in recent days and for a specific reason: politicians began to talk numbers.

First there came an offer from the Obama administration to cut America's emissions by 17 per cent by 2020. There followed an announcement from Beijing that China will decrease its economy's carbon intensity by 45 per cent by the end of the next decade.

Neither commitment is adequate. The US offer is to cut emissions relative to 2005 levels and is much less significant than the EU pledge to cut emissions by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020. And under Beijing's plans, China's carbon emissions would continue to rise overall.

These pledges give the world no chance of escaping a C rise in global temperatures, the threshold of dangerous planetary heating. To do that, our global emissions would need to peak and start to decline within 15 to 20 years. Nothing announced this week would set us on that road.

Yet it would be wrong not to acknowledge that these two announcements represent a step in the right direction. The US will now go into negotiations in the Danish capital with a clear offer to cut emissions if other nations sign up to a binding deal. And China is no longer insisting that the burden of cutting emissions must fall exclusively on the developed world. That is a big shift from both nations.

Such movement from "the big two", which together account for some 40 per cent of the world's emissions, makes a serious deal at Copenhagen much more likely. Numbers are now on the table, rather than simply good intentions.

China's move is likely to help bring India, another rising giant and the world's fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, on board. Delhi's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, admitted this week that "China has given us a wake-up call". That is certainly good news; the world needs those alarm bells to be ringing.

Further good news came this week with the announcement that President Obama will attend the summit in person. The presence of the leader of the world's most powerful nation, albeit at the beginning of the summit rather than the conclusion, should be a galvanising influence.

Delegates should be aiming to produce a binding deal complete with legally binding emission cuts in Copenhagen. But if such a deal cannot be done next month, the world needs an unambiguous agreement that a successor treaty to Kyoto will be signed in 2010; anything less would be a disastrous failure.

After a depressing few weeks, cautious optimism has returned to the Copenhagen process. Expectations have been buoyed. It is now incumbent on global leaders to deliver in the Danish capital.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory