Imagine you are Ed Miliband. You have just got back after an exhausting two weeks’ negotiation at Copenhagen and you did not sleep from Wednesday until Saturday. What’s the first thing you do? Pen an 870-word piece for the Guardian of course, giving your view on what went right and what went wrong.
I’m sure Mr Miliband had help with the article, but that doesn’t change how hard he has worked recently. In the first version of the history of the Copenhagen summit, he is one of the few that comes out well. That’s the view of John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, as well as The Telegraph’s Will Heaven.
After the confusion of the weekend, during which reporters and commentators, many of the highest profile of whom had not even been let in, tried to figure out what kind of a deal was in front of them, they now have the chance to analyse it in a more clear-headed way.
And the response has been surprisingly low-key on both sides of the debate. Even in the extremely sceptic Wall Street Journal, which might have been expected to congratulate China and America in not giving too much ground in compromising growth for emissions cuts, doesn’t seem particularly excited. While its editorial talks of “less tangible harm” and China’s “understandable” bargaining position, it is far from triumphalist in tone.
But in the States, the issue does not seem to have the punch it does in Europe and elsewhere. Even the liberal New York Times does not seem particularly het up about Copenhagen, and its response today is limited to a single fence-sitting editorial.
In fact, the US papers are taking a line not dissimilar to that of their Chinese counterparts. China Daily, the state-run English language newspaper, calls the meeting a “small but essential step”. language remarkably similar to that in the New York Times, which calls the agreement “not trivial”, saying “the hard work has only just begun”.
But possibly the best thing about the lack of any real global agreement on climate change is that politicians cannot simply spin their way out of it. Each one goes home knowing others at the summit are likely to break ranks and start telling the truth about what went on behind so many closed doors.
So when Ed Miliband accuses China and other countries of “holding out” on an agreement then maybe we can start to get past the platitudes on climate change and work out where each country really stands. As so many have suggested, from China to the US, at least it’s a start.