Certainties from Copenhagen

The climate change negotiations in Copenhagen are just too close to call at present.

Countries were on Thursday night engaged in a frantic last round of discussions as world leaders arrived.

A leaked document from the United Nations appeared to show that the commitments made on greenhouse gas emissions so far were inadequate and would lead to warming of about 3 degrees Celsius, well above what many scientists regard as the limit of safety. The document read: “Unless the remaining gap [between emissions pledges offered and those scientists say are needed] is closed and parties commit themselves to strong action prior and after 2020, global emisions will remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550ppm [parts per million] with the related temperature raise [sic] around 3 degrees.”

That caused a sensation.

But in the midst of the myriad uncertainties and confusions at these talks, there are a few absolute certainties.

One is that if there is a deal, no matter how strong, it will be attacked by most of the big green campaigning groups.

Their argument – and the leaked UN document provides them with more ammunition on this point – is that much deeper emissions cuts will be needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

They are likely to be joined by many developing countries, who may denounce a deal as inadequate even if they sign it.

Another certainty is that even a weak deal will be hailed as a huge success by the developed countries and the UN.

And it is almost certain that these talks will go on very late tomorrow night.

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