The BBC and The LA Times have remarkably neutral coverage of the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Conference. It’s neutral because they cannot find ‘the story’. The news organisations would have reveled in a ‘failure’ or a ‘success’, but find it hard to uncover a villain or a hero in the actual outcome – which is a compromise.
Slightly to my surprise, I am pleased with this outcome. More pleased than I would have been with a legally binding commitment. Why? Because I don’t believe that legally binding means anything. We have laws against all kind of things – murder for example, – but it still happens and for the same reasons that it has always happened. I am pleased because the USA is involved in the accord (pdf) and (if I have followed reports correctly) seems to be involved in a deal with China and India – altogether accounting for about 2.4 billion of the Earth’s population. I think an agreement between 3 (or 5) countries is likely to be clearer and more transparent than one between 100 nations. Changing our way of life is enormously difficult and convincing people to do that – as we must in democracies – is going to be hard. It is like turning around a supertanker – first one has to slow down, and that takes time.
I have two disappointments. The first is that the agreements I have heard discussed, talk in terms of limiting ‘global temperature rise’. I would have made an agreement which limited CO2 levels directly because they can be measured easily whereas measuring the Earth’s temperature is fraught with difficulties. Secondly I think targets need to be on a year by year basis: – they don’t have to be same every year – but we need to realise that hitting targets in 2020 involves action now!