Posted by David Shafie
It was early Saturday morning when the agreement was announced. President Obama had left earlier on Friday, hoping to avoid the snowstorm heading for Washington, but not before reaching a deal with representatives of four rapidly industrializing nations (China, India, Brazil and South Africa) whose cooperation was vital to the success of any accord.
The result was a nonbinding three-page statement announcing the intent to reduce carbon emissions by two degrees (celcius) and media reports are filled with the White House descriptions of this as “unprecedented” and a “breakthrough.” Not everyone was pleased; especially the EU—which has the world’s only functioning cap-and-trade regime—and the least developed nations of the G-77, who were asked to support the agreement after being shut out of the most important negotiations.
Across town at the shadow conference, where we spent the last evening of the summit, the news was met with more skepticism. Activists there hoped that the final push by the US would result in stricter emissions targets, or at least an enforceable treaty. Understandably, other nations around the world are wary of promises by the US, when our own cap-and-trade legislation is still stalled in the Senate.
It was slightly frustrating that the operating problems of the conference overshadowed the talks within the conference center. The unfortunate decision to limit the access by NGO’s (and then shut us out entirely for the last two days) probably did not have any impact on the proceedings inside the hall. However, excluding these dedicated people seemed to rob the conference of much of its energy and vitality. It was eerie walking around the hall on Wednesday night to see so many unattended booths belonging to groups like the Rainforest Action Network and the World Wildlife Fund, all of whom came to participate by sharing information, observing and bearing witness to the talks.