<img alt=“smoke.bmp” src=“http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/smoke.bmp” width=“216” height=“324” align=“right” hspace=“10px”//>The United Nation’s upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen threatens to get caught in a trap between high expectations and the immense complexity of the task at hand, warns the author of an opinion piece in Nature today [subscription]. Since diplomats cannot possibly produce a useful treaty for the December meeting in the remaining twelve weeks, negotiations should focus on a small number of realistic goals, and leave the rest for later, says David Victor, an expert on international relations at the University of California in San Diego.
A rushed and over-ambitious agreement in Copenhagen, even if it had the superficial appearance of success, could in fact prove a “legal zombie” – neither delivering nor dying – and might be counterproductive for long-term climate protection efforts, argues Victor.
He suggests that negotiators in Copenhagen focus instead on few topics, such as reiterating and extending existing emission targets by developed countries and continuing the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, whose expiration would shatter the very credibility of international climate diplomacy. A ‘standby’ agreement, shallow though it might appear, could within two years be developed into a fair and efficient global climate strategy.
The post-Copenhagen process, says Victor, would best be led by the small number of rich nations that account for the bulk of global emissions. Given the endlessly cumbersome UN diplomacy that resulted in the meagre 1997 Kyoto Protocol and that weighs heavily on pre-Copenhagen negotiations, “smaller, more flexible approaches offer the only realistic expectations for making progress in 2010 and beyond,” he says.
Global warming, says Victor, is ultimately a problem of economic cooperation, and must be dealt with using the tools and negotiation strategies that have proved most successful in global trade agreements. In trade issues small forums and even unilateral action have indeed shown to be more efficient than global talks.
But is a last-minute ‘plan B’ for Copenhagen simply a polite paraphrase of the climate summit’s foreseeable failure – and an apology in advance?
No, says Victor. A well-managed disaster in Copenhagen is ultimately more likely to pave the way for effective climate protection than a stapled-together deal.
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