With the COP15 clock ticking, world awaits results

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — If you like dramatic endings, keep your eyes on COP15. After years of planning, months of anticipation and weeks of debate, the final hours of the climate talks have arrived, and countless big-name policy drivers have come to enjoy the show. (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel joined our ranks Thursday, to give a few Ameri-centric examples.)

My temporary home-away-from-home, the press briefing room (great fold-out drawing desks), has never been this crowded. Back in the good old days, only a handful of journalists spent their time here — perhaps 20 or 30, total — but now the room is filled to the third tier, and some guy from the Economist is in my usual seat.

The last 24 hours have been a roller-coaster of on-again, off-again politics, with the talks toggling between “stalled” to “progressing” every few hours.

The general consensus was that a deal was hopeless, but as the day stretched on and talks resumed, the folks in the seats next to me started to admit that an agreement may once again be in the forecast. (I refrained from bringing up the wait-and-see attitude I’ve been promoting all week.)

We’re told that President Obama will arrive about 8 a.m. today and, more importantly, depart at 5 p.m. Sharp. I’ve been to a handful of presidential events, and I’ve never seen the president’s departure time advertised so heavily. It’s a pretty clear message: The deadline has arrived.

That left fewer than 24 hours for the negotiators to come out from under the grumpy rock.

The key sticking point, de momento: verification. Or as Secretary Clinton re-branded it, transparency. The United States insists tools are needed to ensure other countries are living up to the their commitments (looking at you, China), and China … er, the other countries … don’t want prying eyes on their turf.

This is a significant difference between the two gorillas at Copenhagen, but even so, we’ve heard things are moving.

In one unusually candid moment during the secretary of state’s press availability, we learned that U.S. negotiators are debating individual words — words like “should” and “shall” — which will outline our responsibilities under any political (and, eventually, legal) agreement. In most instances, the world wants a “shall” and the United States wants a “should.”

Debate ensues. And the debate will almost certainly continue until the last available minute.

One semi-related note: I’ve been trying to avoid overplaying the United States versus China flavor. This conference isn’t about creating divisions, and the language the two countries are using is usually diplomatic.

Even so, it’s hard to ignore the “we’ve arrived” power of the China delegation as the nation’s members storm around the Bella Center, chased by a mob of cameras. It’s a bit eye-opening to see that sort of braggadocio coming from a country other than the United States, and at least in climate circles, it’s clear the world is becoming multilateral again.

Soon, we’ll finally learn how this story ends … or, if you’re a cartoonist who likes to take the long view, how this story begins.

Most people I’ve spoken with agree that something will be signed, and I’m sure every leader who gambled on coming here will herald whatever it is as an “important step,” a “remarkable milestone” and a “defining moment.”

But the world’s people aren’t waiting for speeches. They’re waiting for the fine print. They’ll soon get it.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by david granneman on 12/18/2009 - 11:09 am.

    hello all
    it seems GOD has a practical joker nature. whenever AL GORE is giving a speech somewhere, there is unusual cold temperatures or heavy snow fall.

    By Christian Wienberg

    Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) — World leaders flying into Copenhagen today to discuss a solution to global warming will first face freezing weather as a blizzard dumped 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow on the Danish capital overnight.

    “Temperatures will stay low at least the next three days,” Henning Gisseloe, an official at Denmark’s Meteorological Institute, said today by telephone, forecasting more snow in coming days. “There’s a good chance of a white Christmas.”

    Denmark has a maritime climate and milder winters than its Scandinavian neighbors. It hasn’t had a white Christmas for 14 years, under the DMI’s definition, and only had seven last century. Temperatures today fell as low as minus 4 Celsius (25 Fahrenheit).

  2. Submitted by Gregory Stricherz on 12/18/2009 - 12:09 pm.

    If you’re satisfied with this pap, read no further.

    If you want to read what is REALLY going on in “Hopenhagen,” take a look at these two websites:



  3. Submitted by david granneman on 12/18/2009 - 12:33 pm.

    hello all
    article from the TELEGRAPH in the uk

    Climategate goes SERIAL: now the Russians confirm that UK climate scientists manipulated data to exaggerate global warming


  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/18/2009 - 03:31 pm.

    David: That should read “the Russians now CLAIM that UK scientists manipulated data.”

    RT-TV (the Russian news station) has been running stories for a couple of weeks, each of which attempts to debunk the science accepted by most of the rest of the world.

    Gregory S: YES, Naomi Klein and Democracy Now. The major media don’t seem to be bothering much about details like the exclusion over the past two or three days of all but a fraction of the NGOs who had passes to observe the conference inside.

  5. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 12/19/2009 - 06:43 am.

    Congratulations to China and India and Russia for sticking it to Obama in Copenhagen! More details come out every day on the IPCC fraudulent data for the last 15 years, which only a college educated liberal Democrat could ignore.

    Ben Santer, a climate researcher and lead IPCC author of Chapter 8 of the 1995 IPCC Working Group I Report, admitted last night on Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory national TV show, that he had deleted sections of the IPCC chapter which stated that humans were not responsible for climate change. Accusing Santer of altering opinions in the IPCC report that disagreed with the man-made thesis behind climate change, Lord Monckton told the program, “In comes Santer and re-writes it for them, after the scientists have sent in their finalized draft, and that finalized draft said at five different places, there is no discernable human effect on global temperature — I’ve seen a copy of this — Santer went through, crossed out all of those, and substituted a new conclusion, and this has been the official conclusion ever since.”

    In response to Monckton, Santer admitted: “Lord Monckton points to deletions from the chapter, and there were deletions from the chapter; to be consistent with the other chapters we dropped the summary at the end.”

    Commenting on The Alex Jones Show today, Lord Monckton said that this was the first time Santer had publicly admitted to deleting the information. Santer was involved in the Climategate email scandal, communicating with other IPCC-affiliated scientists who conspired to “hide the decline” in global warming.

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