The Countdown To Copenhagen Begins


In less than six weeks, leaders of the world’s nations will gather in Copenhagen with the stated purpose of finding ways to prevent catastrophic climate change.

In the lead-up to this summit, is presenting a special series of articles. Our "Countdown to Copenhagen" series will offer you a better understanding not just of the issues, but also the processes that are taking place in the lead-up to the meeting in December. Understanding the science and following the political negotiation and debates on climate change is challenging, but it is also central to comprehending 21st century global politics.

With this in mind, the series raises questions about stakeholders and deal-making, shifting targets and allegiances in the negotiations; about how effective international law and UN treaties can be in bringing about climate justice; and about the political context in which these negotiations will take place.

Our writers address these issues as they guide readers through a jungle that is thick with scientific detail, apocalyptic imagery and brinkmanship. In the first article of the series, published today, Ben Eltham delivers a simple background guide to get us started. Bookmark it as a quick check of who’s who and what’s what at Copenhagen.

The summit is no simple event and you’ll need more than a dummy’s guide to negotiate the proceedings — and the engagement of the commentariat. That’s why, for the next six weeks, and over the summit itself, we’ll be covering it from a wide variety of angles.

We’ll be looking at how these summits get organised in the first place, who pushes them and why, and the nuts and bolts of how their output is — or isn’t — eventually used. We’ll examine the arcane processes of treaty-making — now that we’re here, how do we actually get an agreement?

We’ll cover some of the efforts to de-stabilise and distract the process, looking at the inevitable attempts that will be made to greenwash, spin and distort around the issue. Our writers will be seeking to cut through the posturing to see what leaders are really saying when they tell us that they’re doing their best.

And we’ll be checking in with the latest science and climate modelling too. What are some of the more recent predictions, and what do they mean for the conditions the conference is trying to impose? We’ll be weighing the different philosophies around the issue, discussing the different duties and obligations that are proper for economies at different levels of development, and the overall ethics underpinning such arguments.

The Copenhagen summit will herald a rare moment when world leaders combine to scrutinise the limits to business as usual. There aren’t too many precedents for this kind of event and while this fact does provide grounds to be apprehensive, it’s an enormously positive sign that the event is taking place at all. To this end, we’ll be covering some of the most innovating thinking around solutions to climate change, from green economics to sustainable design.

And, finally, we’ll be looking beyond the summit. No matter how much apocalyptic rhetoric is attached to it, whether it is a make-or-break moment or not, Copenhagen will not signify a close to the climate change "issue". Even if a useful agreement is reached, the hurdles of implementation will still need to be cleared. Likewise, if nothing of value is resolved at the summit, pressure to reach global agreement to reduce emissions will be redoubled.

Climate change is no longer a remote issue, one which seems unlikely to affect us or our children. The time when it was possible to dismiss the issue as some sort of conspiracy has long passed. Conspiracy theories are the knowledge of the knowledge-poor. Such things work well around alien abductions and closed-door political machinations, but not about the most studied scientific question in human history. To maintain a rejection of the overwhelming evidence of what is happening is now more often a position taken out of vested interest, mischief, contrarianism or plain ignorance.

Our acknowledgement of the broad scientific consensus on climate change will be reflected in our comments policy. As always, constructive and genuine comments and questions are welcome — but the comments section of will no longer be a place for dedicated conspiracy theorists or for lengthy rejections of the huge amount of scientific evidence that has built around this issue. Such discussions belong in peer-reviewed scientific journals — almost all of which have for some time now been in full or partial agreement that we face a very serious problem.

The existence of the Copenhagen meeting is one important acknowledgement of that — and that the time has come to focus on solutions. We hope you enjoy the Countdown to Copenhagen series.


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.