Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Media mixed on climate summit

Divergent opinion as to what can be achieved by the highly-anticipated UN climate summit in Copenhagen is reflected across much of European and US media. The opening day of the summit has drawn a range of views, from deep scepticism to hopeful optimism for the future of the planet.

In an unprecedented display of uniformity, 56 newspapers in 45 countries carry the same editorial, urging politicians to forget their differences and work together to forge an agreement.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

An editorial in the UK's Times newspaper recognises that a legally binding agreement will not be reached in Copenhagen but a commitment can be made, provided rich countries cut the right deal with poorer ones:

But Copenhagen needs to provide a deal that permits the developing world its ascent to prosperity. The main risk to success is that the developing world rejects the deal or that the mutual suspicion between the United States and China on the verification procedures scuppers the plan.


  • No reference to legally binding agreement
  • Recognises the need to limit global temperatures rising no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels
  • Developed countries to "set a goal of mobilising jointly $100bn a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries"
  • On transparency: Emerging nations monitor own efforts and report to UN every two years. Some international checks
  • No detailed framework on carbon markets - "various approaches" will be pursued
Updated: 13:47 GMT, 19 December

A column in host country Denmark's Berlingske Tidende wonders to what extent the outcome of the talks will be translated into action on the ground:

Regardless of the results in Copenhagen the period following the summit will be more important. Can the results of Copenhagen be implemented? Do populations and governments have the will to implement the changes required when the media and politicians return home from Copenhagen and the international agenda no longer concentrates on the climate?

These will be the big questions. But the result in Copenhagen is important and there is no doubt that the appearance of the American president, Barack Obama, at the negotiations is good news in itself. Together with 100 other heads of state and government he will be able to cement an agreement which forms a basis and a solid foundation for focussing on bringing down CO2 emissions in years to come.

The importance of Barack Obama's presence at the summit is echoed in Spain's El Mundo newspaper:

The challenge is so huge that the summit will probably end with a mere political declaration, very far from the goal of establishing a new treaty. And this despite the fact that the pressure of public opinion has forced world leaders to take the problem very seriously, as shown by the fact that Obama had to change tack and announce that he will turn up at the very end of the summit.

His presence is undoubtedly key to achieving an agreement - albeit one based on the lowest common denominator - that will make it possible to continue working afterwards and, at the same time, investigating the climate in order to dispel the very last drop of scepticism about global warming.

Blogging on Spain's Publico newspaper's website, Isaac Rosa is highly sceptical as to whether the summit can achieve anything at all:

The challenge is huge and the willingness scant. Environmental deterioration cannot be halted by a few measures, either by promising more windmills or by trading emissions. It requires a transformation of the economic model which nobody feels like or is in any hurry for.

If they did not do it with the crisis - nor of course have they even been moved by the abject poverty and hunger this model causes - how could an imprecise and distant threat like that of the climate achieve it?

Writing in France's La Charente Libre, Dominique Garraud depicts a doomsday scenario of what might happen if Copenhagen fails to deliver tangible results:

In Copenhagen, Obama and his like have a mission statement of biblical simplicity: if their countries fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050 compared to the 1990 figure, the point of no return will have been reached...

The disaster scenario, with the melting of the arctic ice at a rate never seen before and glaciers feeding into the great rivers, an increase in sea levels and floods followed by great droughts generating world hunger.

The repercussions of such a cataclysm are known: hundreds of millions of climate refugees and the prospect of a proliferation of 'water' wars. Copenhagen is not the emergency. It has already come to pass and it is more than time to move on from words to deeds.

Jakob Schlandt, writing in Germany's Berliner Zeitung, advocates a more wait-and-see approach, suggesting it is too soon to pass judgement on the summit:

A global climate protection agreement poses a huge threat to economic interests. That is why agreement in Copenhagen is not certain...

Failure in Copenhagen would be a big setback, but future conferences could make up for that. So it will only be clear in a few years' time whether or not strict global climate rules will apply. If no long-term agreement has been reached by then, we would indeed have reason to despair.

One country, Russia, appears to regard climate change as a fringe issue, according to an editorial in Vedomosti newspaper. Under the headline Spare Planet, the unattributed commentary notes how the whole issue is given scant importance among Russia's leaders and people:

Last week the front pages of the world's leading newspapers were devoted to the issue which in Russia is still considered to be more of a fad among the slightly eccentric Greens than something that serious people should be concerned about: the international summit on climate change that is opening in Copenhagen today...

The heads of 98 states are planning to come to Copenhagen... However, the leaders of the Russian state have ignored the summit... The top Russian officials' disdain for environmental issues reflects the attitude that prevails in our society.

Russians do not worry about global warming... To all appearances, Russia is still not part of the international community, as if we live on a different planet.

There is guarded optimism in the New York Times that the summit has a fair chance of succeeding. Under the heading Beyond Copenhagen, the paper's editorial says the summit has begun on the right path:

Nobody should expect a planet-saving agreement from the negotiations that begin this week in Copenhagen aimed at reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases. But the talks were in real danger of blowing up not long ago. Now there is a good chance for at least an interim deal, mainly because the United States and China, the world's two biggest emitters, have promised to reduce or slow their emissions and their two leaders have agreed to attend...

... neither country has offered specific goals before. Their 11th-hour willingness to do so could be just enough to persuade the other 190 countries in Copenhagen to take the first step in what is now seen as a two-stage process.

Meanwhile, in its editorial, the Dallas Morning News warns that scepticism among the US public and the Senate could end up scuppering Barack Obama's best laid plans:

Political leaders eager to fight global warming face a perfect storm of inconvenient timing as they gather this week in Copenhagen for the United Nations climate summit. Just as the planet is reaching what many scientists say is a point of no return on greenhouse gas emissions, what had been a hardening political consensus on climate change is starting to crumble…

But human-driven climate change does exist. The evidence for it is so strong that the outrageous CRU deception scarcely damages it...The laudable progress the US has been making on curbing CO2 emissions under President Barack Obama is now imperiled. Obama goes to Copenhagen pledging significant emission cuts, and China and India are doing the same.

But US Senate opposition to the administration's costly cap-and-trade plan, bolstered by increasing public climate skepticism, could stop the president cold. This is intolerable.

Non-UK European media excerpts provided by BBC Monitoring.

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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