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Day 2 in Copenhagen: Climate Talks “in Disarray”?

The future of civilization hinges on the outcome of the international climate talks in Copenhagen, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters today.

If that’s the case, the prospect for human survival just took a turn for the worse.

The climate negotiations were “in disarray” today after a leaked document revealed proposals for international guidelines that representatives of developing nations said put them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the rich countries of the world. The document, known as the “Danish text” and obtained by the Guardian, is a draft text by the host Danish government that reveals fundamental differences between the wealthier and poorer nations of the world as to how the global community should tackle climate change. (See Abhishek’s post for a peek inside the developing world’s reaction.)

According to the Guardian, the document indicates that “world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.” Furthermore, it is “being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.”

But the BBC notes that the Danish text is just one of many proposals that will be submitted by individual governments to the delegates in Copenhagen. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer dismissed its importance. “This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations,” he said. “The only formal texts in the UN process are the ones tabled by the Chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the parties.”

The principal objection of developing countries centers on the Kyoto protocol. Representatives of poorer countries hope to see developed nations’ emissions continue to be governed by the protocol, while the Danish text proposes an entirely new agreement to mandate emissions controls for every country.

Until the dust settles, it remains unclear exactly what role the Danish text controversy will play as the negotiations progress.

But “disarray” or not, the climate talks moved forward today, with the World Meteorological Organization presenting a report to the conference that shows the past decade to be the hottest on record. The WMO says that 2009 has been the fifth-warmest year and predicts that next year will be the warmest.

Meanwhile, a senior Chinese negotiator criticized the American and European targets as insufficient. And conservative skeptics had their own line of attack, decrying the entire conference as a “circus” and an “echo chamber.”


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