Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Copenhagen and the demise of Green Utopia

By Benny Peiser - posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The failure of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen is a historical watershed that marks the beginning of the end of climate hysteria. Not only does it epitomise the failure of the EU’s environmental policy, it also symbolises the loss of Western dominance.

The failure of the climate summit was not only predictable - it was inevitable. There was no way out from the cul-de-sac into which the international community had manoeuvred itself. The global deadlock simply reflects the contrasting, and in the final analysis irreconcilable, interests of the West and the rest of the world. The result is likely to be an indefinite moratorium on international climate legislation. After Copenhagen, the chances for a binding successor of the Kyoto Protocol are as good as zero.

The extent of the debacle and the shift in the balance of geopolitical power was demonstrated by the fact that the final accord was made without the participation of the European Union. The exclusion of Europe is a remarkable symbol of the EU’s growing loss of influence, a green bureaucracy that was not even asked whether they agreed with the non-binding declaration of China, India and the USA. Although the Copenhagen conference was held in a European capital, the negotiations and the final result of the conference were totally outside European involvement.


Climate poker

The visibly shaken EU leaders had to admit that they were taken by surprise and had been out manoeuvred by China, India and the USA. US President Obama and the leaders of India and China had left Copenhagen long before the European heads of state were forced to agree with an accord which had been reached without their input. A rejection of the Asian-American Copenhagen Accord would have been an option, were it not that it would have pushed the EU into the extremist corner of Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe.

The failed climate summit caused a tectonic shift in international relations and left behind a new political landscape. After Copenhagen, green Europe looks rather antiquated and the rest of the world looks totally different. The principles on which Europe’s climate policies were founded and which formed the basis of the Kyoto Protocol have lost their power while the EU itself lost authority and influence.

True-blooded advocates of Realpolitik who hardly exist in the climate policy debate, had warned for a long time that Copenhagen would fail to bridge the divergent interests of the West and the developing countries. For political realists, it is no surprise whatever that all key decisions were postponed indefinitely. What is more, there is little doubt that China and India are the big winners of the Copenhagen climate poker. The two emerging superpowers managed to win new strategic allies, even among Western nations. China’s and India’s strategy to align themselves with other developing countries in opposition to protectionist threats by the US and the EU proved itself as very successful. In the end, their persistent “No” even forced the Obama administration to join the anti-green alliance.

The Asian-American Accord connotes a categorical “No” to legally binding emission targets. This means that a concrete timescale for the curtailing of global CO2 emissions, not to mention the reduction of the CO2 emissions, has been kicked into the long grass. The green dream of industrial de-carbonisation has been postponed indefinitely.

The “NO” is non-negotiable

The imminent danger of a legally binding climate treaty that would force developing nations to impose extremely costly restrictions on cheap energy and thus their economic growth and development was quashed. “Business as usual” seems to be the veritable motto of international climate policy for years to come, if not for decades.

Despite the manifest fiasco, considerable resistance to admit defeat and to accept the new reality still exists in many European capitals. Thus, we hear the usual post-conference mantra: but at the next climate conference we will be successful. The decisions which were postponed in Copenhagen will be agreed to at the next summit Mexico later this year.


This green rhetoric has no basis in reality. It’s a green fata morgana. After all, the rejection by the developing world to commit to legally binding emission targets is not a tactical negotiation ploy. The categorical “NO” is absolute and non-negotiable. Due to the evident lack of realistic energy substitutes, developing countries have no choice but to continue to rely on the cheapest form of energy, i.e. fossil fuels - for the foreseeable future.

The European rejection of reality is particularly silly as absolutely nothing was decided in Copenhagen. Even the promised US$100 billion climate fund is not binding and is unlikely to materialise in any case. Of course, these figures are pure fantasy because both the EU and the US have made these sums conditional on the signatures of China and India under the climate treaty, a proviso that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

The developing nations are not stupid. They have ensnared the West in a climate trap that green politicians set for themselves. To meet the growing pressure by the West, developing countries are demanding US$200- 400 billion - per annum - for so-called climate compensation and adaptation measures, together with billions worth of technology transfers. It is difficult to see how the West, already heavily curtailed as a result of the economic crisis, would be prepared to transfer such an astronomical amount of money. Even in good times it would have been a foolish idea.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in GWPF Opinions Pros and Cons on January 14 2010. Translated by Marianne and Gerrit van der Lingen from the original article in the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, 20. December 2009

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

15 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr Benny Peiser is the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the editor of the climate policy network CCNet.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 15 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy