Copenhagen cop-out: The ‘longest suicide note in history’?

By Lauren Knott

Procrastinating politicians are in danger of turning next month’s climate change talks in Copenhagen into little more than a talking shop, a body of leading scientists and engineers has warned.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), a professional body for scientists and engineers, said it was “bitterly disappointed” the talks will not deliver a legally binding instrument forcing countries to reduce CO2 emissions.

Their manifesto on environmental action calls for world leaders to act now or condemn future generations “to a hostile climate and greatly diminished resources.”

It follows an admission from US president Barack Obama that time has run out to secure an agreement in the Danish capital in December.

Nick Reeves, CIWEM executive director, said: “Without doubt, Copenhagen should have been the most important meeting of world leaders since the second world war.

“Yet procrastinating politicians are preparing for more talks in the outmoded but time-honoured fashion that’s all about brokering deals and consensus-politics. The outcome could be the longest suicide note in history.”

Separate research published by the Met Office today shows emissions of CO2 will need to be reduced close to zero by the end of this century if a rise in the mean global temperature beyond 2C is to be avoided.

A temperature rise of no more than 2C is widely acknowledged as the ‘safe’ level to avoid dangerous climate change.

John Mitchell, director of climate science at the Met Office, said: “This latest research emphasises the necessity to make drastic cuts in emissions as quickly and as soon as possible if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and highlights the importance of the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen in December.”

Mr Reeves warned the talks would close with a deal too weak to provide the changes needed.

“When it comes to global action on climate change, we’ve been here before,” he added.

“Kyoto may have been an historic agreement but it took too long, didn’t include the US, and didn’t achieve very much. Whatever emerges from the aftermath of Copenhagen, it may be too little, too late.”

The government reaffirmed its commitment to brokering a meaningful deal next month, however.

“There’s no weakening or lowering of ambition and we’re continuing to push at Copenhagen for a comprehensive politically binding agreement,” a spokesman from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

“We want maximum ambition from Copenhagen and that must include firm numbers and commitments.

“We’re also clear that the Copenhagen agreement must set out a very clear timetable to a legally binding treaty which must be agreed as soon as possible and without delay,” he added.