Copenhagen Explained


Five weeks ago we began a series of articles dedicated to clarifying some of the extraordinary complexity surrounding the Copenhagen climate change talks. Now, with those talks finally about to begin next week, we’ve collected them here in what amounts to a detailed briefing on the situation, the negotiation itself, and the likely outcomes.

Read these and you’ll have a much stronger chance of understanding why the negotiations might break down, or, if an agreement is reached, what it actually means.

Copenhagen For Dummies
LDS? G77, AOSIS, CDM…? Whatever else it is, the conference is also a festival of acronyms, and in his Copenhagen for Dummies,‘s National Affairs Correspondent Ben Eltham straightens them out. Ben draws a quick thumbnail sketch of the overall objectives of the conference, and why so many people think we need the kind of agreement it is designed to produce.

The Science Behind Copenhagen
There are plenty of expectations around the conference, but even if it succeeds, will its target be the right one for avoiding climate catastrophe? David Spratt updates the science going into the conference, and measures what is on the table against the reforms that are needed to produce an acceptable outcome.

The Key Players
In order to get the kind of deal they want, most of the world’s countries are lining up into blocs who share common interests. But how solid are these alliances and what happens when their differing circumstances start to pull them in different directions?
Erwin Jackson and Will McGoldrick take a detailed look at the key players, and at Australia’s attempts to act as a bridge between them — while looking after our own perceived self interest at the same time.

The Role Of International Law
Copenhagen is supposed to produce a binding commitment, but how do you enforce something like that anyway? Gerry Simpson examines the relationship between the talks and international law, its assets and shortcomings, and the part it will need to play in making any future agreement work.

The Sticking Points
No country is going to find it easy to cut emissions, and at one level the negotiations are about each country doing as little as it can while trying to convince the others to do as much as they can. David Spratt analyses the arguments different countries are using, and identifies the main areas of conflict going into the talks.

The Process
Finally: Copenhagen isn’t just one meeting, it’s a whole bunch of meetings. But how does such a huge process work? International negotiation specialist Stephen Minas explains the detailed structure of the negotiations, which ones are the big meetings, what will be expected in each, and how the various agendas are expected to function in leading to an agreement.

That’s our specialised briefing in the lead-up. Stay tuned for more conference coverage during the talks, and in their aftermath.

Ben Eltham is New Matilda's National Affairs Correspondent.