Opinion: Climate fiasco in Copenhagen | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 19.12.2009
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Opinion: Climate fiasco in Copenhagen

After 12 days of negotiations, the world climate conference in Copenhagen has proven a failure. This is a strong blow to preventing climate change, writes Henrik Boehme.


The Copenhagen summit has widened the gap between rich and poor nations

It's been almost two years since the climate conference in Bali, where plans were made for signing a new climate treaty by December 2009 in Copenhagen. But it was clear months before this year's meeting that no such agreement would be reached.

Copenhagen was an odd conference. Truly everyone attending was in agreement that something must be done to stop climate change.

But conflicting interests got in the way of compromise: The Chinese didn't want supervisors in their country; the Europeans didn't want to increase CO-2 reduction goals; the Americans didn't want to go too far on any deal. Africans wanted more money, but had a problem with being transparent on how it would be spent. In the end the conference reached a complete stand-still.

In order to not leave complete empty-handed, a few countries united on a meager agreement. Obama was content to call this deal "unprecedented," but it was in fact only a trick to prevent the conference from being seen as a complete failure.

It's not only about climate

The results of this conference have widened the gap between the developed and developing world. Meetings such as these offer poorer nations the unique opportunity to discuss their problems on a world stage, and they have done so here with impressive assertiveness.

The conference was not just about climate: it also dealt with the global balance of power and safety and stability around the world. The problems of this planet were clearly visible through the walls of the 70,000 square-meter conference center as if they were glass.

Henrik Boehme head shot

Henrik Boehme, DW Economics Department

For US President Barack Obama, Copenhagen offers no good news. His last trip in Copenhagen was his failed attempt to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Now with the stakes much higher, he has failed again. His speech was good – but others like Brazil's Lula da Silva were better. His effort was good, but simply not good enough. In terms of his leadership, there was little to be seen.

Quo vadis, Kyoto?

So how will the world proceed with climate politics? Whatever trust that had been built between industrial and developing nations is gone. There now remains one last chance: rich countries, which produce the majority of greenhouse gases, must place themselves on the forefront of the movement without being bogged down by preconditions. They can no longer just talk about change – they must also make it happen.

Climate politics have moved forward but a millimeter in the past two years. The model the Kyoto Protocol gave us may not yet be dead. But the hope that the success of the 1997 conference could somehow be replicated in Copenhagen has undeniably disappeared.

Author: Henrik Boehme (acb)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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