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Build-up to Copenhagen

While the build-up to this year’s important climate conference in Copenhagen (where the international community is to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol) has been going on for years,  the diplomatic grandstanding is now starting to reach new peaks (or rather lows if the international community is to have any success in setting binding targets for emission reduction). For instance, under a recent visit to India, US Foreign Secretary Clinton was told in firm manners that India will not commit to binding reduction targets.  Meanwhile, Clinton hastily added the US is not seeking to hinder the economic development of countries like India and China. Clinton’s visit in India follows pledges made by the leading industrial countries at the recent G8 summit in Italy to curb emission of carbon dioxide by a whopping (and unrealistically some would assert) 80 per cent by 2050. So what to make of all this? It is evident that various countries are currently playing the diplomatic game in an attempt to improve their negotiation positions before the Copenhagen summit in December. It is likewise clear that the developing countries have a good argument when saying that subjecting them to emission cuts would be prima facie unfair given their current state of economic development. On the other hand, countries like China and India, although China last year overtook the US as the number one carbon emitter, have made significant progress in terms of energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy. Equally, moods are changing in the US where the recent Climate Bill passed the House (check out the Legal Planet Blog for some excellent stuff on US environmental law in general). Although far from perfect, for instance, the Bill contains provisions on carbon tariffs on products for countries not doing enough to reduce their emission, it is a significant step forward given past attitudes in the US. All the same, attempts to address emissions will have to, from an environmental perspective, include some of the developing countries if it is to have any effect at all. Interesting days are indeed ahead.

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