Until Friday, the UN-sponsored climate conference in Copenhagen had been a rather dull affair, characterized as it was by the bickering of mid-level dignitaries and the usual menagerie of activists and hangers-on outside the convention center.
But on Friday, there was significant news.
An ad-hoc UN working group released a document that will likely serve as a starting point for negotiations when the big boys roll into town later this week.
The document proposes a deal in which industrial nations cut carbon-based emissions between 25 and 45% compared with 1990 levels by 2020, and major developing countries like China and India cut theirs over the same period by 15 to 30%.
In addition, all countries would reduce emissions by 50 to 95% by 2050.
The document skated over details like how much money rich countries would fork over to poor ones to help them cope with global warming, or what levels of global temperature increases would be deemed “tolerable.”
Still, it was a start.
Aside from survival of the planet as we know it, the economies of every nation on Earth could depend on the outcome of this agreement. Rifts have developed between developed and emerging economies and between the world’s 2 major carbon emitters, China and the US.
The 2 superpowers disagree about their obligations to fix the mess, and warily eye each other in advance of the battle for supremacy in Green technology, which seems certain to drive national economic success for the rest of the century, much as information technology has driven US economic success since the 1970s.
Costa Rican delegate Ricardo Ulate, described the skirmishes for the Washington Post as “a game where a new economic hegemony is being developed.”
That may be, but what he’s seen so far is just the undercard.
The main event begins later this week, at which point heads of government from 60 countries will have arrived in Copenhagen.
“We’re getting into the big leagues,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, vice president for global policy at Conservation International. “The heavyweights are coming.”