Yesterday Ed Miliband added his voice to the chorus coming from many EU and US officials saying that he's concluded that there won’t be a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen next month. By his measure a proper deal faces a delay of at least six months, and probably more.
From this it would seem that warm words and a warming world are now all we can look forward to from the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Over the past few weeks our political leaders have scrambled to lower expectations. This statement marks a new low. A year ago Copenhagen was going to be it, our best opportunity to avoid unprecedented climatic disaster. Now, we are being told it will be talks about more talks.
Instead of a legally binding treaty Miliband and others are now talking about a ‘politically binding’ agreement at Copenhagen. They then hold out the hope for a ‘legally binding’ agreement after that. But a treaty that isn’t legally binding is, essentially, a suggestion. “Political agreement” would only bind the governments who agree to it in Copenhagen. As soon as a new government takes office there's a risk that the political commitment will disappear. Even if there's no shift in government, the political commitments of administrations can easily shift with the changing winds of domestic politics.
We are being told that this is the best we can expect at Copenhagen and that we should accept it, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Just because the richest and most powerful countries say they don’t have the guts to make a strong binding deal, that doesn’t mean all countries at the negotiations feel the same. There’s no consensus around having a weak deal, it’s the US and EU who are pushing that line. Developing countries are pushing back with their own political reality. In many cases they are fighting for their survival. We must keep demanding the deal that the world needs from Copenhagen. The price of failure is painfully high.
To do that effectively we have decided to look at who is to blame for the current deadlock and see if we can expose them. So who’s to blame? China and those increasingly polluting, developing nations who won’t sign up to anything? The decadent, rich west who won’t take responsibility for the damage they’ve done? To find out, we’ve run a comparative analysis on the negotiating positions of 11 of the key leaders involved in the negotiations to see who’s been trying to push things forward and who’s been succeeding in holding us back.
The answer may surprise you. Or it may not. In fact it probably won’t. It’s the US again.
Here is our ranking showing how the leaders’ current policies stack up and where they would lead us in a warming world.