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Climate Talks Deadlocked, Protesters Get Violent

12/16/09

Ryan Brown–Chicago, Illinois, USA

Little progress is being made at COP-15 due to complex international issues that are in part made worse due to violent protests outside the summit.

On the front page of today’s Chicago Tribune there is an article that explains that the climate talks of COP-15 are deadlocked. The author outlines the complex problems that face the international community as they attempt to reach an agreement in Copenhagen.

The article recognizes the US as one of the major factors inhibiting the international community’s ability to reach a binding agreement the past ten days. It cites that the US has only pledged a minimal reduction in future carbon emissions, “The U.S. has offered a 17 percent reduction from 2005 emissions levels by 2020. That amounts to a 3 percent to 4 percent cut from 1990 levels — the baseline year used by many other countries.“ This insignificant number by one of the world’s leading polluters is disturbing and falls far short of what the science insists is necessary. However, the article cites that the US has its hands tied by Congress, which failed to reach an agreement ahead of COP-15.

Also disturbing is the fact that China (the world’s largest emitter) has said that it has no obligation to report how it achieves any pledge that it makes. The international community needs the ability to check any country’s report on emissions reductions to verify that they are accurate. It is very suspect as to why China would refuse such a small requirement of them.

Another aspect of the talks making news recently here at home has been the violent protests at the climate summit that have sent hundreds to prison. The Tribune cites that yesterday 260 protesters were detained after a climate protest got violent. Police were forced to throw pepper spray to finally disperse the crowd. Such violent protests have done little to help the progress of these climate talks.

As a third party observer still back in the Midwest, I must admit that these violent protests have gotten far more coverage locally than the progress of the talks themselves. When protesters become violent they run the risk of alienating those who are still ignorant of the dangers of global climate change. We need to convince these people that climate change is real, when climate protests get violent they only create the impression that the movement itself is violent and radical. This is not the kind of publicity that COP-15 needs especially when climate bills are still under debate in Congress. Furthermore such disturbances are a distraction for any officials in the talks who may be negotiating.

It is time for these violent protestors to realize that they are hurting the chances that a global climate deal is reached in Copenhagen.

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