Lots of ‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ – yet no statesmanship in sight

Monday, 16. November 2009     0 comment(s)
Anna Korppoo
Researcher - The EU's Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme
World leaders seem to have launched a concerted process of scaling down the expectations for the Copenhagen climate summit. Barack Obama did his bit by delivering his requirements for participation last week, stating that ‘If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that's something that I will do.’  Angela Merkel followed with her ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ a couple of days later by saying that ‘she would attend the meeting if success appeared likely’. Does this mean that they will not come as we are still far from success in Copenhagen?

But a real blow was delivered on Sunday, when the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (APEC) i.e. the US, Japan, China, Russia, Australia and Canada, among others, back-tracked on their earlier target to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and ‘viewed the Copenhagen summit as a “staging post”, not an end point’.

The reason for worry is not the -50% by 2050 goal itself; it was never considered very substantial, but rather an inspirational target, which the decision-makers would not need to worry about delivering due to its longer time perspective. Prospects for any meaningful – and so crucial – shorter-term goals are the real concern. As even a longer-term goal, considered as easier, is rejected, how likely are the policy-makers to adopt shorter-term commitments which they would actually have to participate in delivering?

The current economic crisis, which some analysts claim is already easing up, is used as an excuse for non-action. To see beyond this trouble that will pass requires a clear vision and some tough decisions which will not please everyone. The Copenhagen process needs leadership which focuses on the global public good, and thus, extends beyond the current short-term economic and political interests and pressures. Obama was expected to provide such leadership, but he obviously is not up for it.
It has been a long time since such vision has been demonstrated in the climate negotiation process. A politician thinks about the next elections, a statesman thinks about the next generations. To solve climate change, the worst crisis ever threatened the mankind, we need a statesman.

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