The Emperor’s New Climate-Change Agreement

Dressing up failure as victory has been integral to climate-change negotiations since they started 20 years ago. The latest round of talks in Durban, South Africa in December were no exception.

COPENHAGEN – Dressing up failure as victory has been integral to climate-change negotiations since they started 20 years ago. The latest round of talks in Durban, South Africa, in December was no exception.

Climate negotiations have been in virtual limbo ever since the catastrophic and humiliating Copenhagen summit in 2009, where vertiginous expectations collided with hard political reality. So as negotiators – and a handful of government ministers – arrived in Durban, expectations could not have been lower.

Yet, by the end of the talks, the European Union’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, was being applauded in the media for achieving a “breakthrough” that had “salvaged Durban,” and, most significantly, for achieving the holy grail of climate negotiations, a “legally binding treaty.” According to British climate minister Chris Huhne, the results showed that the United Nations climate-change negotiation system “really works and can produce results.”

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