Dispatch from Copenhagen: Heading Towards Nopehagen?

Global leaders woke up in Copenhagen on Dec. 17 to find a blanket of snow covering the ground. But it was inside the Bella Center—the conference hall where delegates from 192 countries are trying to hammer out a climate change deal—where things were really frozen. With less than 48 hours before the summit closes, policymakers were still at loggerheads over who should shoulder the brunt of carbon reductions. And it remains unclear whether a compromise can be reached before Dec. 18.

In part, the brinkmanship is a negotiating tactic used by all involved to get a deal done. With the likes of U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao speaking at the summit over the next two days, there’s a lot of political capital at stake. And negotiators reckon the combined political weight of all the global leaders attending could push through a deal, no matter how watered-down.

“The next 24 hours are absolutely critical and need to be used productively,” Yvo de Boer, the UN’s chief negotiator said late on Dec. 16. “Everyone wants to see ambitious reduction cuts by developed countries.”

The push for the West to take on significant CO2 cuts is just one of the sticking points. Many developed countries, particularly the U.S., don’t want to sign up to binding reductions without large emerging economies (read: China and India) doing something similar.

Another problem is carbon finance. Developing countries want billions of dollars from the West for everything from renewables to deforestation projects. There has been movement on the issue, including a pledge from the U.S to participate in a $100 billion funding project by 2020 if a climate change agreement is found, but many in the developing world want more.

Finally, governments still haven’t agreed who will control the money being doled out, let alone who should monitor whether countries are meeting their CO2 reduction commitments. Among delegates in Copenhagen, it’s referred to as ‘transparency.’ For you and me, that means policymakers haven’t figured out who controls the purse strings of potentially billions of dollars of climate change funds. Until that questioned is answered, negotiations will remain in the deep freeze.

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