Clinton Waves Cash at Copenhagen Talks, But Pessimism Prevails

Before Obama's arrival, China pours cold water on hopes of a deal as Clinton offers billions in climate aid

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Did China decapitate the Copenhagen talks? There are two big news items from Copenhagen this morning. First, Secretary Clinton pledged to help raise $100 billion in climate change aid for poor countries. Second, China, according to The New York Times, "signaled overnight that it saw virtually no possibility that the nearly 200 nations gathered would find agreement by Friday." Specifically, "a participant in the talks said that China would agree only to a brief political declaration that left unresolved virtually all the major issues."

On the surface, this pessimism could signal that negotiations are headed for failure, as some predicted yesterday. But some observers suspect the Chinese are bluffing, and hope that Clinton's announcement will change the downward course.

  • 'Can Expectations in Copenhagen Get Any Lower?' asks The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson. China's signal, in his mind, shows that they can. Johnson acknowledges, regarding Secretary Clinton's own announcement, that "the whole issue of financing has been at the heart of disputes during the two-week climate conference. But Secretary Clinton's offer," he continues, "though it directly addresses one of the developing world's main requests, doesn't mean a deal is any closer." The financial support depends on an agreement on a course of action at Copenhagen and on steps by poorer countries to cut emissions. "Each one of those conditions has been a bone of contention at the conference." In fact,
Tensions [between the U.S. and China] had already dampened expectations for any successful outcome of the summit, where world leaders arrive starting today. But China's statement early Thursday suggests it's even less likely that Barack Obama and other political heavyweights can break the impasse.

So what now? Hope springs eternal--or at least promises do. Chinese officials told Bloomberg they hope to be able to reach an agreement sometime next year when climate talks resume in a warmer locale.
  • 'Potential Game-Changer,' Politics Daily's David Corn dubs the U.S. financial offer, saying it "shifts the focus of the summit in the last days to China and other emerging nations."
  • Staring Contest "China and other countries," writes Ronald Bailey at Reason, "have made it clear that they will not commit to legally binding targets nor to independent auditing. The U.S. says that it can accept nothing less. Who will blink? Stay tuned."
  • Hard to Say "It's not clear," begins Politico's Glenn Thrush, "if remarks by Chinese officials, made during negotiating sessions on Wednesday night, signal the end of efforts to reach a significant agreement or simply represent an 11th hour bargaining tactic less than a day before Obama was due to arrive in Copenhagen." Unfortunately, he adds, "U.S. officials fear it's the former, with little time left to negotiate a real deal before COP 15's conclusion Friday."
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