The Copenhagen Panic
COPENHAGEN – A sense of panic is setting in among many campaigners for drastic cuts in global carbon emissions. It is becoming obvious that the highly trumpeted meeting set for Copenhagen this December will not deliver a binding international treaty that will make a significant difference to global warming.
After lofty rhetoric and big promises, politicians are starting to play the blame game. Developing countries blame rich countries for the lack of progress. Many blame the United States, which will not have cap-and-trade legislation in place before Copenhagen. The United Nations Secretary General says that “it may be difficult for President Obama to come with strong authority” to reach agreement in Copenhagen. Others blame developing countries – particularly Brazil, China and India – for a reluctance to sign up to binding carbon cuts. Wherever you turn, somebody is being blamed for Copenhagen’s apparent looming failure.
Yet, it has been clear for a considerable time that there is a more fundamental problem: immediate promises of carbon cuts do not work. Seventeen years ago, industrialized nations promised with great fanfare in Rio de Janeiro to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. Emissions overshot the target by 12%. In Kyoto, leaders committed to a cut of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2010. The failure to meet that target will likely be even more spectacular, with emissions overshooting by about 25%.