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The Mulch: What's at stake in Copenhagen?

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Over 15,000 people from 192 countries began to work towards an international climate deal today in Copenhagen. These discussions are part of the largest and most important United Nations climate change summit in history. After two years of contentious negotiations, heads of states are convening through Dec. 18 to curb greenhouse gases, encourage the development of clean energy, and transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to help developing nations curb climate change.

It’s going to be a lively 11 days. Jacob Wheeler has already posted video of a demonstration to save the climate for In These Times‘ blog, The ITT List. For live coverage of the Cop15 summit, make sure to check out video streams hosted by The UpTake and OneWorld.

Robert Eschelman reports in The Nation that Cop15’s probable outcome will be a draft agreement. But what will this potential deal look like? “Four issues will dominate the negotiations taking place inside Copenhagen’s Bella Center. First, developed nations, such as the United States, must commit to significant reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions. Second, developing countries like India and China will have to reduce the rate at which their emissions increase over the next several decades. Third, developed countries will have to provide clean energy technologies and funding to developing nations as they address the effects of climate change. And, finally, negotiators will have to agree on how to monitor and enforce an international climate agreement.”

The U.S. has taken some good first steps to reaching such an agreement. Last week, President Barack Obama announced the country’s commitment to a global fund that will mobilize $10 billion per year by 2012 to support developing countries that are already experiencing the effects of climate change. It’s an important first step. But as Yes! Magazine reports, using the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to manage this money isn’t a good idea. “Both have track records of saddling poor countries with debt, requiring government spending cuts that undermine national economies, and handing lucrative contracts to transnational corporations.”

President Obama has also changed the timing of his Copenhagen visit from this Wednesday, Dec. 9, to the conference’s big finale on Friday, Dec. 18. Grist consulted with a panel of experts regarding the significance of the schedule switch. They all agree: It’s a big deal. Obama’s arrival on the last day “changes the game,” according to Kenneth P. Green, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “It suggests that a ‘deal’ is already in the bag, and Obama’s expecting that he’ll get to bask in the glow of a new global agreement, flagrantly repudiating the position of the Bush administration in previous climate negotiations.” Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, believes that Obama’s appearance at the end of the conference will “transform the Copenhagen climate conference into the largest summit yet of world leaders focused on global warming.”

Scientists warn that without such an agreement in Copenhagen, the Earth will face ever-rising temperatures, flooding of coastal cities (about half of the human race lives within 100 miles of a coastline), more extreme weather events, and the spread of diseases.

Air America features a comprehensive look at what’s at stake in Copenhagen. “The change in U.S. administrations a year ago had aroused hopes the long-running climate talks might finally produce an all-encompassing package in 2009 to combat global warming and help its victims. Too little time and too little agreement, however, especially between rich and poor countries, mean the 192-nation Copenhagen conference is likely to produce, at best, a framework — a basis for continuing talks and signing internationally binding final agreements next year.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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