The international extravaganza that is the Copenhagen Climate Conference began today, marking the first day in a week of talks during which 200 leaders from across the world will try to make some sort of the progress on the problem of climate change. Or at least that’s what is supposed to happen. In reality the conference is more likely to consist of Europe railing on America for not doing enough, the emerging economies accusing the West of being hypocritical, and the rest of the participants enjoying the generosity of Copenhagen’s working women.
Honestly, though, there has been some progress. China and India, two key players in the climate change debate, did set emission targets in anticipation of the conference, but they are hardly ambitious enough for the occasion, and it seems unlikely that the conference will change things. Amidst ample amounts of domestic pressure and a flood of legitimate economic concerns, China and the US have been in a deadlock over climate change for a while now, with each nation formulating its own plans based on the scale of the other’s. According to the NYT:
Both Washington and Beijing face domestic pressure from business and political constituencies pressing their governments not to make energy and environmental pledges that could limit economic growth during a recession. Members of Congress made it abundantly clear to the Obama administration that they would not approve any treaty that did not include a firm promise from major developing countries, particularly China and India, to at least slow the growth of emissions.
And the fact that China and the US are collectively responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions means that meaningful progress will not be made unless the stalemate is broken.