An article from The Economist in its first issue of this year proposes that the Copenhagen climate change summit that just took place at the end of last year could turn out to bring more benefits than perceived despite its being “underwhelming”.
Sure, the whole accord was just a political, non-legally-binding statement and lukewarm at best in its promises for all to do their part for the environment. But at least both developed and developing countries signed up to the Copenhagen accord, considering how these two warring factions were split because the developed countries felt the developing countries needed more cuts while the developing countries felt the developed countries were responsible for all the emissions and hence to bear the brunt of the costs of cleaning up. Not that the rift has narrowed significantly but at least the process and product were not totally derailed.
Another reason for optimism is in “the development of political structures better suited to the challenge”. The complexities of climate change, from all the industries it affects to all the political issues it brings, need to be dealt with under a new body and in more creative manners. And the regulation of so many greenhouse gases from so many sources makes it even more difficult. This brings to mind the possibilities of another Montreal protocol that sought to regulate only CFCs, which turned out to be a much bigger success than even Kyoto was. The Economist proposes that there will be “new pluralism in climate politics”
as different groups come together to deal with different specific issues such as “slowing deforestation” or “stemming emissions from shipping”, that might yield better results than a gargantuan, labyrinthine treaty that regulates every single issue without specifics or generalises the whole complexities of climate change.
A huge barrier to any improvements on Copenhagen could be the US. The Senate will decide upon legislation that will set up “a cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon”, and whether they succeed will impact post-Copenhagen discussions to finalize cuts in emissions. The upcoming Senate elections may put in place more Republicans and upset the Democrats’ super-majority that will prevent fillibustering of bills like that of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. The Republicans have been rather against the cap-and-trade, and they may derail the whole post-Copenhagen process should cap-and-trade crash and burn in Senate.