The world will almost certainly fail to draw up a new treaty on climate change this year, the minister in charge of last year’s Copenhagen summit has admitted, delivering a heavy blow to the barely flickering hopes for a swift global -settlement.
Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister who masterminded the summit of world leaders on global warming last year and is now the European commissioner for climate change, told the Financial Times that negotiations were not progressing fast enough for a treaty to be signed soon.
She also gave a warning that pushing too hard for a treaty this year could be counterproductive.
“To get every detail set in the next nine months looks very difficult,” she said. “Europe would love that to happen, and I would love that to happen . . . but my feeling is that it is going to be very difficult to get a treaty.”
Her pessimism echoed that of the outgoing United Nations climate change chief, Yvo de Boer. He told the FT as he resigned last month after four years of seeking an agreement that he could not see a treaty being signed this year.
The admission comes against the backdrop of a resurgence of climate change scepticism, fuelled by a series of mistakes by scientists that have encouraged many politicians to oppose emissions regulation.
Governments had been hoping to forge a final treaty at a global conference this December in Mexico, after failing to do so in Copenhagen.
However, Ms Hedegaard said this was more likely to happen at a follow-up meeting next year in South Africa.
That would still allow governments to meet their self-imposed deadline of forging a new agreement before the end of 2012, when the current provisions of the world’s only existing treaty on greenhouse gas emissions, the 1997 Kyoto protocol, expire. Ms Hedegaard robustly defended the Copenhagen summit, which attracted loud criticism, especially for the chaotic way in which it finished. She said that calling world leaders to the long-running negotiations had ensured rapid progress towards the end, when for the first time developed and developing countries mutually agreed limits on their emissions.
But she said there would not be another Copenhagen-style summit. “You can do such a thing one time,” she said.
The price of failure, if diplomats tried to force an agreement this year, was too high, Ms Hedegaard said. “People would say let’s skip that idea, let’s skip the UN thing,” she said.