Climate conference 'set to fail'
Copenhagen will fail - it's official. At least that is what United Nations climate change chief Yvo de Boer told the Financial Times on Tuesday.
Mr de Boer told the newspaper that the Copenhagen climate change conference will not produce a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto treaty.
Since that is precisely what the Copenhagen conference was intended to do this is a significant admission from the man whose job it is to bring December's negotiations to a successful conclusion.
"A fully fledged new international treaty under the [UN framework] convention [on climate change] - I do not think that will happen." He said. "If you look at the limited amount of time remaining to Copenhagen, it's clear."
So where does that leave the negotiations?
The truth is that Mr de Boer is just expressing what has become clear to most observers of these complex talks.
The original ambition for the Copenhagen conference was to put in place a legal architecture for enforcing an international agreement on emissions reductions.
That is what the Kyoto treaty did in 1997. It expires in 2012 and the idea was that Copenhagen would draw up its replacement.
But it has become increasingly clear over recent months that the world is just not ready to sign up to a sweeping accord of this nature.
Mr de Boer's interview is designed to scale back expectations.
The need now, he said, is to "concentrate on the political imperatives that make it clear how countries are committed [to tackling climate change] and engaging in cutting emissions, and what co-operative mechanisms they need to put in place".
What that means in practice is that he will be happy if the UN comes away from Copenhagen with a series of commitments from individual countries about how they intend to cut or stabilise their emissions.
These commitments will only have force in national law.
The UN has not given up on the goal of a legally binding international agreement, however.
Mr de Boer told the FT that he wants to see a decision on a long-term target for emissions cuts.
He wants ministers to "decide a deadline by which that architecture can be negotiated into something comprehensive".
Nevertheless, what is clear from the interview is that what is agreed at Copenhagen is likely to fall so far short of original expectations.
Let's not forget what is at stake here. The Copenhagen conference is reckoned by many to be pretty much the last chance the world has to begin to cut greenhouse gas emissions before catastrophic climate change becomes inevitable.
So how is it that a deal has been derailed before the world's environment ministers have even sat down at the table?
I hope I will be able to find some answers to that question over the next couple of weeks because the Ethical Man team is returning to the United States.
In the last weeks before the Copenhagen conference begins we will be exploring the role the world's most powerful nation has played in the run up to the talks and asking if the US is responsible for the likely failure of negotiations.
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