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Copenhagen: Upon arrival, yesterday’s news today

I arrived in Copenhagen via Amsterdam from Washington today, along with a host of other Washingtonians making the same journey. After a quick shower, I found my way to the conference centre, through the metal detectors, past the credentialing stand and into the conference. Thousands of people milled about; hundreds of journalists filled a media room; bright lights and cameras focused on a revolving slate of officials who were being interviewed in one language or another.

So what’s new? In short, four days into the two-week talks, not much. Everybody was still talking about how the tiny island of Tuvalu, along with support from fellow island nations and a few of the most vulnerable developing countries, challenged China and India a day earlier, on Wednesday. Tuvalu put forward language that would commit nations to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees instead of the oft-cited 2-degree target. The short, though incomplete, story is that China and India balked because they know that much more would be required of them, as the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, under a 1.5-degree scenario.

Tuvalu’s proposal isn’t going anywhere, to be clear, but it nonetheless represents the first public rift in the so-called Group of 77+China, an odd coalition that has somehow managed to stick together despite representing both booming economies and the world’s poorest nations. According to this analysis, some of the most vulnerable nations are beginning to recognize that their interests do not necessarily align with those of the major emerging economies.

Not much in the way of news on Thursday, so I used what little energy I had after a nearly sleepless night to mingle, catch up and attend a session on efforts to assess emissions from deforestation in the United States’ international aid programme.

Who knows where things will go from here. Fireworks can be expected, but everybody seems to think that politicians have invested too much to walk away without an agreement next week. But it remains to be seen who will be there to witness it; UN officials are already working out formulas on who will and won’t be allowed in (media included, rumour has it) next week, when attendance is expected to rocket past the 15,000-occupancy limit.

More soon.

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