Reports of a climate deal … at least a first step

December 18, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


U.S. President Barack Obama, fourth from left, is joined by other leaders, including Brazilian President Inacio Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, third from left, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, fifth from right, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, fourth from right, in a multilateral meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark Friday, Dec. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

There’s word from various news outlets, including The New York Times, of some sort of a deal in the Copenhagen climate talks:

The United States, China, India and South Africa have reached a “meaningful agreement” at the Copenhagen climate change conference, an Obama administration official said. 

“It’s not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, but it’s an important first step,” the official said. “No country is entirely satisfied with each element, but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make progress.”

“Developed and developing countries have now agreed to listing their national actions and commitments, a finance mechanism, to set a mitigation target of two degrees celsius, and to provide information on the implementation of their actions through national communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines,” the official said.

AP is reporting that President Obama will be speaking about this soon, and that the video will be available here.

Please feel free to pass on links to other coverage and commentary.

13 Responses to “Reports of a climate deal … at least a first step”

  1. roselle says:

    We have just agreed to the equivalent of building a three foot high dike in anticipation of a six foot flood. Fantastic. At least now there is recognition not only of the problem, but of a need for a real solution to it, and that we don’t yet have one. Not a proud moment in the history of our species, but it could have been much worse I suppose; They could have just asked for more studies to be made.

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Saw this, and thought of you, Roselle:



    COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — Statement of Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., on tonight’s announcement by President Obama:

    “Climate negotiations in Copenhagen have yielded a sham agreement with no real requirements for any countries. This is not a strong deal or a just one — it isn’t even a real one. It’s just repackaging old positions and pretending they’re new. The actions it suggests for the rich countries that caused the climate crisis are extraordinarily inadequate. This is a disastrous outcome for people around the world who face increasingly dire impacts from a destabilizing climate.

    “The blame for the failure to achieve a real deal lies squarely on the rich countries whose pollution has caused the climate crisis — especially the United States. Rich countries refused to budge from the grossly inadequate emissions reduction proposals they brought to Copenhagen, and they failed to put sufficient money on the table so that poor countries that did not cause this crisis have the capacity to cope with it.

    “With the future of all humans on this planet at stake, rich countries must muster far more political will than they exhibited here. If they do not, small island states will become submerged, people in vulnerable communities across the globe will be afflicted with hunger and disease, and wars over access to food and water will rage.

    “The devastation will extend to those of us who live in wealthy countries. If we cannot find a way to cooperate with others to produce a real agreement to solve this problem, climate change impacts will devastate the U.S. economy, undermine our security, and inflict irreparable harm on future generations.

    “The failure to produce anything meaningful in Copenhagen must serve as a wake up call to all who care about the future. It is a call to action. Corporate polluters and other special interests have such overwhelming influence that rich country governments are willing to agree only to fig leaf solutions. This is unacceptable, and it must change.

    “Fortunately, while the cost of solving the climate crisis rises each day we fail to act, the crisis remains one that can largely be averted. It is up to the citizens of the world — especially citizens of the United States, which has so impeded progress — to mobilize and ensure that true solutions carry the day. I firmly believe that together, we can still achieve a politics in which climate justice prevails.”

  3. Red Desert says:

    I got the Friends of the Earth message in an e-mail. Shrill. Like every other message they have sent out. Ever. I don’t know who they think they are going to win over.

    Did anyone really expect a different outcome? It’s almost like you don’t have to watch the movie to the end. You already know the story. I guess the difference is each summit gets more over-the-top dramatic.

    I think Bush had it right. (Did I actually just write that?) Much more productive climate talks would be engage the G-20, the major emitters. Those summits also follow the same script–arguments and disagreements until the last hour when everyone needs to catch Air Force One back home and realize they need to make a nice, media friendly joint statement. Even so, I could imagine real progress there. If cities and states can initiate side agreements on climate, why not the G-20.

    Sounds to me–just my opinion, nothing in stone–that James Inhofe came away with the most accomplished. He managed to get interviewed a bunch of times, managed to stir the pot.

    Hey, the real news today is the agreement in the works between Russia and the US to cut their nuclear arsenals by a quarter. It’s a big deal and very good news.

    Have a good holiday Ken. Thanks for the bit about the extra danger in the mines at Christmas time. I had no idea. Makes me think.

  4. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    If you missed President Obama’s remarks, AP has posted the text:

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Here’s the Washington Post’s take:
    COPENHAGEN — President Obama said Friday night that an international deal to combat climate change had been reached, but “it is going to be very hard, and it’s going to take some time” to get to a legally binding treaty.

  6. MX2 says:

    Ouch…from the U.K. Guardian:
    “Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure — Deal thrashed out at talks condemned as climate change scepticism in action”

  7. Thomas Rodd says:

    I’m with Red Desert — I am turned off by shrill rhetoric.

    Here’s my personal reaction to the news from Copenhagen (and I could well be way off base).

    Dealing with climate change is not about achieving justice, or improving the environmental quality of life. It’s about trying to ensure the survival of human civilization, which is at this point a very open question. Dealing with climate change on a global basis will necessarily be organized and led by very amoral forces that have a high tolerance for injustice and human suffering. The UN framework appears to be quite open to NGOs, small countries, etc. The elites that run the world find this a difficult environment in which to make deals. So, maybe a G20 or some similar route will prove more fruitful. See:

    Happy holidays, Coal Tattoo readers — and good luck, humanity!

  8. Red Desert says:


    Going from a bleak prediction of human suffering, injustice and environmental degradation to Happy Holidays was a bit more whiplash than I was prepared for.

    I appreciate the post (because it makes one think), but is saving civilization the only reason to stop climate change? And if, to be saved, civilization must become the dark, unjust and intolerant environmental darkness you fear, is it even worth saving?

    I don’t want to answer those questions. I guess I’m not ready to give up, and I don’t think we have to. The first thing to remember is that we can get started cutting back on carbon emissions now and it won’t cost us anything. In fact, it will make nations economically stronger.

    With state-of-the art technology, cutting that first 20% is a win, win for everybody. Remember it’s not how much energy that’s burned. It’s what’s done with it.

    Beyond that it’s not going to be easy, but I wouldn’t bet against the future just yet.

  9. rcj112 says:

    Did you see Nathan Myhrvold on CNN yesterday? He has, what seems like, a good idea to help fix the greenhouse affect til we can come up with ways to go green. considering we won’t go green for decades.

  10. Thomas Rodd says:

    Red Desert, I’m not at all giving up on passing climate legislation in the US, as a necessary part of a global deal.

    Nor do I despair that the leaders of the world can and will soon make a deal that will try to avoid a catastrophe, although I’m not at all sure that such avoidance is possible at this late date. But it’s worth one hell of a try.

    I have however cleansed from my mind any notion that the global leaders who let Rwanda and the Holocaust and the AIDS pandemic and WWI and WWII occur will have any more refined or effective sense of justice and mercy in dealing with climate policy.

    Climate policy, even more than many other rationales, will empower selfish elites to manage the world in their own interest. The necessary limits on growth that are posed by climate change (and other resource limits) mean that the safety valve of an ever-expanding economy will be closed off, meaning even more pressure for “them that’s got” to keep their disproportionate shares.

    My “hope” is that in the cracks of the current and future unjust and unecessary-suffering-laden global regime, people can nevertheless hold onto and cultivate friendship, hospitality, austerity, and conviviality. I try to do my part in that regard.

    Trying to influence history in the climate area at this point may or may not be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if it is, I have some arrangements that I am determined to try to put in place.

    Yes, we can!

  11. roselle says:


    I’m not as disappointed as some, because I didn’t expect much more than this. But it remains a watershed moment in our history when you step back and look at it. We didn’t give our president many cards to play and he did his best. But of course this is the beginning, not the end of the debate. A few short years ago all this attention to the climate would have been unthinkable. And I agree, the Friends of the Earth press release was shrill and unhelpful, and the environmentalist parading around the Bella center in Polar Bear costumes was embarrassing. If you read my book, you know how I feel about such things. When I think of how much money the US enviros spent on hotels, airfares and bar tabs it even makes me a bit angry. The work to do is here in the US, convincing ordinary Americans that they have a stake in this issue. I don’t think very many US activists were at all concerned with that.

    Check out what my good friend George Marshall has to say on this here

    Happy Holidays,


  12. Thomas Rodd says:

    This is a post from Joe Romm about why he thinks it’s a good sign the UN process is evolving into a “big emitters” process.

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