Copenhagen - What Happened Today
It's really nothing new.
The talks in Copenhagen seem to be confirming the status quo. Developing countries are still looking for someone to pay for climate change so they can continue growth. They are looking to the developed world to do this. Today some African nations walked out of the talks in protest over discussions to let the Kyoto Protocol expire and begin with a new treaty, one to which all countries are bound.
What does it really mean? It has to do with money.
Under Kyoto developing nations have no emissions reduction requirements. Countries to the Kyoto Protocol are to reduce their emissions or purchase international offsets if they don't (clearly it's not entirely this simple, but those are the basics). The purchase of these offsets (which for most industrialized nations are necessary in order to get their emissions below the cap) essentially amount to financial assistance by the developed to the developing world.
The developing nations are not accountable for emissions under Kyoto, nor is the United States, which neither signed nor ratified the treaty. If a new treaty is made, then most developed nations argue that in order to be effective and to involve the U.S., it must also bind the developing world. The developing world isn't particularly keen on this (see our previous blogs commenting on India and China). It would also mean that the financial assistance would stop.
The United States is very clear - for them to buy in, all nations must participate. Canada agrees. However, despite that Canada contributes only about 2% of global emissions, it appears to becoming an international climate change target. Today Canada received two fossil awards (the presentation was shown on the big screen outside the Bella Centre to the amassed crowd of registants) and was the subject of a climate change "hoax" where Canada's emissions reduction goals were falsely identified in a phony news release.
It's not productive. Minister Prentice's Communications director pointed out as much to the press when asked to comment on the incident today. And Canada's reduction target continues to align with that of the United States. The Minister has been saying this for months.
Needless to say, it's still not clear what will come from these negotiations at this point. The Americans know that a binding international treaty will require them to walk a fine line between committing resources to finance the low carbon economy - both domestically and internationally - and what Congress has an appetite for.
Whether the negotiations result in an extension of Kyoto, the favoured option of developing nations, or an entirely new agreement, the favoured option of Canada remains to be seen. We'll know more in the next few days of "Hopenhagen", as they're calling it around here.