We all know the power game from midnight thrillers – a bad cop and a good cop. Two officers - an aggressive one and a sympathetic one - trying to confuse scoundrels by sending them conflicting signals.
COP15 – an abbreviation of Conferenc e of the Parties – is the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen that is part of the United Nations series of meetings that continues next year in Mexico, and which in recent weeks has played its role as the bad cop.
Copenhagen will not be the venue where world leaders will sit down and bind each other to a global climate agreement.
To put it diplomatically, the signals in recent weeks and months have been both conflicting and contradictory. But the tendency has been clear – Copenhagen is simply playing to the gallery.
The difficult decisions are – yet again – postponed until next year, just as targets that have previously been set, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Kyoto in 1997, have not yet been fulfilled.
The United Nations system has failed as the world’s police officer and as the framework for binding realpolitik and negotiations on a problem that is so urgent for the world.
By driving the rhetoric up to such a piercing level, without being able to back it up with action or new funding, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard have contributed to creating global expectations that they obviously have been unable to honour.
US will not be bound
President Obama has not yet been able to convince his domestic majority. The Americans are probably willing to introduce moderate reductions in CO2 emissions, but are not prepared to commit to a global agreement that tastes of a devolution of sovereignty.
The majority in the Senate is against a legal construction reminiscent of the Kyoto Protocol that hardly any country has lived up to anyway.
The new, pragmatic tones from Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Lib) are not just an expression of the fact that ambitions have been significantly reduced.
As hosts for the COP15 meeting, the Danish government must be prepared to accept that the Kyoto model seems dead. Instead, the most likely scenario is one of bilateral climate agreements that are linked to political gentlemen’s agreements.
The threatening statements have been dropped and have given way to softer tones. In the theatricals on the schedule up to and after the Copenhagen summit, Western politicians have no other options left than to play their roles as good cops.
A bit of paper will be produced at the Bella Center, but the paralysis does show up the weaknesses of the United Nations on the international stage.
Translated by Julian Isherwood