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Obama's Damp Squib

By Marianne de Nazareth

18 December, 2009

Copenhagen: Today at the end of covering two weeks of negotiations we are tired and our worst fears have been confirmed. 120 heads of state have arrived amidst tight security at the Bella centre and all the plasma screens around the centre had groups in huddles listening to the speeches by key heads of state.

The speech of the President of the United States was looked forward to by many around the world, but it was disappointing to say the least. He started off very positively saying, “We come here as Climate Change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked this can pose much risk to our planet. The question is our capacity to meet it. The reality of Climate Change is not in doubt, it is the ability to take collective action that is in doubt right now. We can act boldly and decisively and I have come here to act. As the world’s largest economy and the 2nd largest emitter, we intend to handle that responsibility.”

He went on to say that the US had renewed its leadership in Climate Change negotiations. He elaborated about the ‘bold actions’ taken back home regarding saving of energy and mitigation actions. Then came the cruncher couched in Obama’s famous diplomacy – he said to achieve a global accord all major economies must put forward national action plans, many have done so with legitimate targets. but without accountability any agreement is just empty words on a page. ‘A hollow victory,’ he said. There were some countries that did not want any strings attached to the finance being offered and were not willing to be held accountable. That he stated was not acceptable. “Embrace the accord, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation,” he said. “Or we can choose delay falling back in the same divisions as before. America has made its choice.” And not surprisingly the speech just received polite applause in the room.

India’s Primeminister Manmohan Singh spoke very firmly and unequivocally saying, “ The outcome may fall short of our expectations and 20010 could be when we could negotiate a real deal. To settle for something with diminished expectations is wrong. The negotiations should continue on the Bali mandate and the Kyoto protocol should stand as a valued instrument. It would go against public opinion if we succumb to a new and weaker set of commitments. Any agreement on CC should support development in developing countries.” Any new regime he said must have moral authority and credibility if it acknowledges that every citizen of this world has an equal right on the atmosphere. He explained that we are among the countries most likely to be affected by CC. We have started a major action plan relying on our own resources with 20 thousand megawatts of solar by 2022. And additional 6 million hectares of forests too will be planted over the next several years. “We in India are very vulnerable but nevertheless as responsible citizens we have taken on a voluntary reduction, regardless of this conference.” However he said we can do more if a global climate regime is put in place.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev surprisingly reiterated Mr Manmohan Singh’s point regarding the fact that many of our countries are not responsible for the level of GHG emissions in the atmosphere.

The Chinese President Hu Jintao said China takes Climate Change very seriously. However he said that to meet Climate Change challenge and maintain the consistency of the outcome the Kyoto protocol and UNFCC legal basis must be highly valued. The agreement must also follow rather than deviate from the Bali roadmap. He said it was in-admissable to turn a blind eye to historic emission.

Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil sounded totally disappointed saying, “ I would like to say very bluntly to all of you, the 2am meeting I attended was like a trade union meeting. We did not come here to bargain, we are willing to take a step further to solve the problem of Climate Change.” He referred to the fact that developing countries had not developed for a century and so they were not willing to make any more sacrifices. “ What we want is that we work together, the rich and poor and establish a common ground to leave this conference with great pride as we are concerned of the future of planet earth.”


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