COP15: Why do poorest countries not see eye to eye with richest?

With hindsight, reaching a strong agreement was always going to be a struggle in Copenhagen, with talks stalling if a single country decides to put its foot down.

Particularly if that country is America.

So, by now, we're all aware the talks are in trouble and that there are some pretty significant differences of opinion floating round Copenhagen's Bella Centre.

But why do these divisions exist and is there a realistic chance of everyone coming together to announce a useful global agreement at the end of play tomorrow?

To try to explain what's going on, it is possible to simplify the factions by looking at them as four distinct camps.

The USA, traditionally seen as the bad guy of climate change, is keen to be seen to be more progressive under the new administration.

It says it will do its bit, and is even prepared to sign up to legally binding emissions targets, but only if everyone else does too.

The US is also adamant on transparency - they want to know exactly who's emitting what, what they're doing about it and where all the money is going.

Sounds fair? Not according to the developing countries. Africa is being most vocal on the issue, but most are singing the same tune at lower volumes.

They want to see a continuation of the status quo - a post-Kyoto agreement that looks a lot like Kyoto.

That is, they want a legally binding protocol that obligates the wealthy states to reduce emissions but sets no targets for the developing world, and hands the bill for any climate change mitigation in the developing world to those who produced the emissions - the industrialised world.

Again, seems fair enough.

Between these two poles, you have the not-quite-developed countries that want something else again.

In the case of China, it says it doesn't want hand outs under any global climate fighting fund, but it doesn't want to open its books to the world either, which is a major sticking point for the transparency-driven USA.

The final bloc is the Europeans and Japan, who, like the US, seem up for spending potentially huge amounts of money but with less strings attached.

They will want to ensure any fund is well managed and seem more flexible about signing up to targets which don't apply to the developing world.

Whether all this can come together in the eleventh hour still remains to be seen, but it's looking increasingly likely that the USA, the only country not to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, is going to be left out in the cold once again whilst the rest of the world cobbles together a compromise.

Sam Bond


COP15 Climate Talks


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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