The international climate negotiations in Copenhagen are underway.
Yesterday was the first day of the 15th UN Conference on Climate Change, which runs through December 18th. The Conference opened with speeches, concerts, and actions as delegates from 192 nations and tens of thousands of citizens of the world descended on Copenhagen, Denmark.
Despite lofty speeches about coming together to seal a deal, the first day of the conference reinforced tensions between wealthy and developing nations. Draft negotiating text, likely between the United States, Britain, and Denmark, was leaked on Monday. The Guardian reported that the leaked text would set emissions targets that unfairly burden developing countries and give the World Bank, rather than the UN, control of financing poor nations as they adapt to climate change. Developing nations interpreted the leaked text as an indication that wealthy nations are trying to cut an unfair backroom deal without them.
An anonymous diplomat told the Guardian, "Clearly the intention is to
get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle [a
deal] through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of
the U.N. process."
The leak also raised concerns about the role of Denmark, which as the host country also serves as the President of the Conference. As one of the nations involved in what is being called the "Danish text", it seems Denmark will not be as impartial as some groups expect from the chair of the proceedings. Friends of the Earth issued an action alert this morning calling on Minister Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s chief negotiator, to run the negotiations in a fair, transparent, unbiased manner.
Some argue that these concerns are overblown, and that the text is just a framework for negotiations and will be changed considerably throughout the process.
Whatever the meaning of the leaked text, the voices of the most vulnerable people and countries must be central to the negotiations in Copenhagen. There is simply no way that a deal struck between the wealthiest nations in the world will protect and provide opportunity for the communities and nations that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis and shifts in the global economy.
President Obama ought to lead in Copenhagen the way he did during his campaign - by being a consensus-builder who can unite across divisions. This means the United States must engage developing nations in the negotiating process, rather than strong-arming a deal through. And it means that, whatever the process that gets us there, the final deal must be fair to the most vulnerable communities and nations.