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Belmont Club

The pointing finger points

December 18th, 2009 - 2:03 pm

The Associated Press reports Copenhagen gripped by a diplomatic frenzy, even as the principals worked to cobble together a two-page statement of principles to present in place of a specific agreement. President Obama and China’s Wen met once again, kindling hopes that something might yet be salvaged from the meeting. Diplomats had a “handful of hours” left to pull off a “miracle”.

The Times Online said the negotiators were jettisoning the ballast in an effort to keep the conference aloft. “Key safeguards on climate change were sacrificed today in a desperate attempt by world leaders to achieve a compromise at the Copenhagen summit.” But the Times Online also hinted that the conference was being derailed, rather than dependent upon a miracle by Barack Obama, who appears to have nothing left to say to the Chinese leader. The President of Russia has already left and the Japanese leader was already packing his bags.

Gordon Brown and some other leaders prepared to stay overnight as the final stages of the negotiations were prolonged by a dispute between the US and China over remarks made by President Obama.

But reports this evening that President Medvedev of Russia had already left the talks while Japan’s Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, was planning to leave later last night heightened the feeling that time was running out for a deal.

Mr Obama met Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister, tonight in attempt to repair relations after Mr Wen had taken offence at his insistence on the need for reliable monitoring of every country’s emissions.

In his speech Mr Obama said: “Without any accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.”

Mr Wen apparently interpreted this as an attempt to subject China to external scrutiny, despite Mr Obama’s insistence that the monitoring system would respect national sovereignty.

Even ABC News strained to find a silver lining, noting that a variety of high sounding drafts have been circulated “but the language failed to include a legal framework.” Meanwhile, the ever-cheerful Gordon Brown, in a phrase that may forever catch the absurdity of the moment, said of the problems besetting the conference that “they are big issues but the differences are not fundamental.” Strangely enough, Brown may be right. Obama and Wen really aren’t disputing anything except who’ll take the rap for this fiasco. Barack Obama tried to set up Wen by depicting him as a hold-out. But the crafty Chinese pretended to take umbrage — it wasn’t hard given the habitually consdescending tone of the Western Left towards the Third World — and tried to shift the blame to him. The conference ends with the two trying to frame each other. It’s a perfect ending entirely in keeping with the character of the entire enterprise.


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