How Will History Judge Copenhagen Talks?

By EO Editorial Board
Published: 2009-12-22

Cover Editorial, Issue 449, December 21, 2009
Original article
: [Chinese]

The U.N climate conference in Copenhagen has ended but uncertainties remained.

Prior to the conference, the Economic Observer joint hand with 55 other newspapers around the world in publishing a common editorial, in which, we called on the representatives gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics.

Yet, the proceeding and outcome of the conference have indeed confirmed our concerns.

To begin with, the controversial "Danish Text" threw the talks into disarray. As delegates from various countries crossed swords over a host of issues, they bickered, blamed each other, protested, and even wept.

Towards the eleventh hour, two significant players, the US President Obama Barack and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, landed in Copenhagen. Perhaps, out of concerns that the talks would falter, they brokered a compromised deal, and it is no surprise that the final outcome could hardly meet the expectations.

Nearly all the long standing conflicts failed to be resolved at the conference. And the gap between the developed and developing world remains a thorny issue.

The developed nations have called for a review of the Kyoto Protocol, claiming it no longer reflect today's political and economic realities; Meanwhile, the developing nations have stood by the Protocol, calling it the one and only legal binding document on climate change, and demanded the rich nations to honor their promises. Throughout this debate, China played an active role in presenting the case of the developing nations.

On emissions cut target, there was no satisfactory commitment from the developed nations. Though the United States has pledged aid for developing nations in fighting climate change, but details on its implementation are scant. 

Since day one, the fight against a climate change crisis has been overshadowed by conflicts between nations. There are endless arguments over who should bear more responsibilities, who should provide the money, whose interests to be safeguarded.....But these should not become the excuses for inaction. On the contrary, when reality bites, all the more the international community should stand together with courage and resolve.    

Scientific findings have warned us of the threats of climate change. To overcome these threats, politicians need a perspective that is beyond nationalism and regionalism. Safeguarding national interest has always been the ultimate aim of each country's foreign policy, but at the Copenhagen climate talks, the ultimate goal should be the betterment of the entire human race.

In the past, we have seen encouraging examples of multilateral cooperation in averting global crisis, for instance, the united efforts under the ozone layer protection treaty, and the collaborated actions in easing the 2008 global financial crisis. These examples demonstrate that international cooperation can deliver change.   

Prior to the start of the Copenhagen climate talks, we have appealed to all countries to deliver a breakthrough; towards the end of the session, we recognize that it will take more than one Copenhagen meet to deliver change. How will history judge the Copenhagen climate talks? Hopefully not as a symbol of short sightedness, humiliation and failure.