The News Of Copenhagen’s Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Bill Scher

The online version of Foreign Policy magazine currently blares the wildly premature headline “Who Killed Copenhagen? FP Plays The Blame Game.” This apparently is what happens when a thoughtful if staid non-profit publication gets sold to a for-profit corporation — in this case, The Slate Group division of The Washington Post Company. Instead of detached deep analysis, we get shoot-from-the-hip oversimplified headlines.

I don’t know what exactly is going to happen at next month’s international climate summit in Copenhagen, and certainly the narrowing of the summit’s goals is not as good as being on the cusp of a long-term international agreement.

But if Copenhagen is “dead,” that would means nothing can possibly be accomplished next month. That simply isn’t true.

Everyone knows we have several chicken-and-egg problems when it comes to forging an broad international agreement: with the US, China and India all playing a frustrating no-you-go-first dance.

One way to overcome such a problem is with baby steps. Granted, the planet doesn’t have a lot of time for a lot of baby steps. But there is path to success that doesn’t require too many.

In the US, a tripartisan trio of Sens. John Kerry (D), Joe Lieberman (I) and Lindsey Graham (R) are working towards announcing compromise legislation, bringing together a carbon cap with increased offshore drilling and nuclear power. These are terms that — pending on the details — the White House, as well as most environmental organizations, are willing to accept.

If that happens before Copenhagen, the US can show that it is very close to passing comprehensive climate legislation, making it easier for the international community to forge an intermediary climate agreement that at least gets the world moving — including major developing nations China and India — on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Once it is clear that China and India are taking action, a chief excuse for skittish Senators will be put to rest, making it easier for the Senate to pass a tripartisan deal and reconcile it with the already passed House carbon cap.

And that can pave the way for a final global agreement in 2010.

Will it happen this way? I don’t know. But surely that’s the game plan, and it’s a plausible one.

For the leaders of the Copenhagen summit to make a course correction in advance of the meeting was simply smart, hard-headed politics, not an act of suicide.

For Slate’s Foreign Policy to declare otherwise is an act of journalistic suicide.

Comments