A global warming summit of good intentions
UN officials say it gave fresh momentum to upcoming talks for a new climate change treaty. But many unresolved issues remain.
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During a presummit briefing, Yvo de Boer, executive-secretary for the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that negotiators in Copenhagen need to reach a political agreement on the major pieces of a new deal. These pieces include what he describes as "ambitious, legally binding emissions-reduction targets for industrial countries," clear indications that developing countries are taking steps beyond any they've already set in place to put them on a path that reduces their emissions below business as usual, financing for developing countries, and a governing structure that gives developing countries a greater voice in how that money is distributed and spent.Skip to next paragraph
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With a political agreement in hand, he said, negotiators can work out the details later.
But the glacial pace of negotiations over the past two years, plus the challenge President Obama and Democrats in Congress are having moving a major energy and climate bill through the US Senate, raises the prospect that negotiators may not deliver nearly as much as delegates envisioned when, in 2007 in Bali, they set up the road map for the current series of talks.
It's unclear how quickly details can be worked out after a political agreement is reached. The Kyoto Protocol was hammered out in 1997. Negotiators were still haggling over the details four years later.
Some are suggesting that negotiators need a fall-back scheme in their back pockets if Copenhagen talks end without an agreement.
For instance, political scientist David Victor at the University of California, San Diego has suggested reviving an approach, first offered up in the 1990s, in which countries would pledge action, then have a international body provide the reality check. If such an approach covered the highest emitters, he argues in a recent commentary published in the journal Nature, it could prove effective.
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