Invigorating Copenhagen Wrap-Up by Sean Kidney

Reflections towards a better strategy in the future:
1. Developing nations came to the Copenhagen Conference with a very
firm position, that Kyoto had to be extended, which meant tougher
commitments and cuts by developed nations but no cuts required of
developing nations, reflecting the view that the richer nations caused
the problem and had to do most to fix it (fair point). Developed
nations came to the table insisting that, as 90% of all future
emissions would be coming from developing nations, they had to accept
cuts as well, especially the now more developed ones like China, Korea
and, of course, Saudi Arabia (fair point also). They also, as Aubrey
Meyer at the Global Commons has pointed out, had a de facto
Contraction and Convergence position, which is a significant advance.
Copenhagen turned into the big collision between these positions; no
surprise that a binding agreement wasn’t possible. The hope is that
polarised positions will now have to be abandoned, at least by the

2. Some recent reports suggest China came to Copenhagen with more to
give than they ended up giving, but were put off by the US having
nothing extra to offer. The total lack of progress during the last
week of the negotiations seems to have been because China then decided
not to budge. Some people that were in the talks have privately
reported that they think the Chinese team had very tight negotiating
limits, and were not able to respond effectively to the fast-paced
negotiation the Americans tried to introduce in the last couple of
days. That’s positive news, because it means there really is room to
keep working on the process.

3. The outcome reminds us that the world is not run by the United
Nations. Expecting a consensus result from the flawed governance model
it represents was really a dream. The fact is that we now have a
multi-polar world - a number of large economies or economic blocks
have to be able to agree for anything global to happen. Whatever we
might wish for, the UN negotiations are a venue for big country
discussions, not a decision-making forum. The good news about this is
that it IS a multi-polar world - the Copenhagen Accord is the first
major international agreement of modern times that recognises Brazil,
South Africa and India, as well as China, as critical components of
the world order. This probably wouldn’t have happened before the
financial crisis when the dollar was still the primary world currency.

4. Civil society was impressively organised at Copenhagen. A number of
agencies had great looking campaigns and put a huge amount of money
and effort into them. Could they have been better coordinated? Yes,
room to improve, but the major civil society organisations are not
that far apart as it is. The rethinking to be had is with strategy -
the”ask” made of rich countries were not able to be met, even when
they were largely onside, as the EU was. Civil society organisations
are going to have to do the politician’s work for them - analyse the
various global blocks to change, whether in developed or developing
countries, and run more acutely targeted campaigns, presenting
progressive politicians with a politically easy path to make what we
all know are the right decisions.

A small example in the US of how campaigns could be better targeted to
make it easier for politicians: have a look at a story just published
in the Columbia Journalism Review on the extraordinarily powerful
impact on US public opinion of pseudo-scientist TV weather reporters -
I first became aware of the assertive ignorance of some weather
reporters when my news monitoring kept turning up denialist stories on
the Weather Channel website, and I dived in to try and correct some of
them. The Columbia Journalism Review story explains just how
widespread the problem is and, at the same time, just how central
weather reporter views are to the understanding of climate change by
the US public. When asked in a national survey who they trusted for
information about global warming, 66 percent of respondents named
television weather reporters!  …. unfortunately, most weather
reporters don’t ‘believe’ in climate change. The underlying story is
how the ‘sceptic’ Heartland Institute targeted weather reporters some
years back, giving them free tickets to sceptic’s conferences and the
like. That would have to be one of the more successful targeted
campaigns in history, helping block policy progress for years; it
needs to be reversed.

We’ve run out of time to rely on convincing governments to do what’s
required; we now need cleverer targeting of pivotal groups in society,
from weather reporters to the investors who really decide whether
coal-fired power plants will be built or not.

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