The world scenario after Copenhagen

By Zhou Shixin
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, December 26, 2009
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The United Nations Climate Change Conference finally finished after almost two weeks of exhausting and chaotic negotiations, debates and disputes. The Copenhagen Accord that was reached at the end fell short of any legal bindings but was recognized by all countries, including developed and developing countries, as well as small island countries. But many countries also were dissatisfied with the results and tried to shift blame to others. The world order after Copenhagen is characterized by discord and confusion.

The United States is an irresponsible country. Todd Stern, the U.S. climate envoy, said the United States was not in any debt to the world for its historic carbon emissions. Lack of common sense about history seems common in the United States. Therefore, we can understand why it never feels guilty for its aggressions toward weak and poor countries under the pretext of human rights and other excuses — even though its actions have fueled so many upheavals in the world.

The rich countries cannot dominate international affairs as they wish any longer. They are trying to evade their obligations to provide poorer countries more capital and technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Danish Text, which intended to give rich countries both regulatory control and a higher limit on per capita emissions, seemed to prevent the conference from concluding with any significant agreements. Many developed countries are much disappointed that they will have to shoulder their historical responsibilities for global warming.

Developing countries can defend their interests if they are more united. Climate change is not only related to environmental protection, but also economic development and other issues concerning daily life. For some small island countries and least developed countries, climate change is also an issue of national security. The G-77 and other developing countries strongly demanded that developed countries abide by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Developing countries will no longer be forced to accept the unilateral designs of developed countries, which still seek to cheat and exploit developing countries.

The emerging powers are seeking to lead developing countries in taking control of their own destiny. It is necessary for them to lead developing countries in protecting their national interests because they are more capable and experienced in bargaining with the developed countries. As representatives of developing countries, the emerging powers have similar historical background and realistic demands and can truly reflect the exact feelings of most developing countries.

The emerging powers are trying to contest with the developed countries over the normative power of global governance. It is imperative for all countries to bear their commitments in safeguarding and cherishing the Earth, the only planet where we live. But it is unfair to see the rich countries get richer and development gap between rich and poor countries become bigger, while developing countries are deprived of the capability for sustainable development, which will happen if they have to commit to equal responsibilities with developed countries. There might be more stability and prosperity if all countries not only have the same opportunities to develop economically, but also have similar economic development levels.

Developed countries will not readily concede to developing countries. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton joined a meeting between leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa and bargained into the final document at the last minute. This indicates that developed countries will not tolerate a consensus between developing countries that may not be favorable to developed countries. The competition in cooperation in different fields between developed and developing countries will be more drastic in the future.

World power is more dispersed than ever. It will be more difficult for countries to achieve unified binding resolutions in future, especially unilateral resolutions concerning international issues of universal attention if there is no cooperative diplomacy. Any one country cannot dominate world affairs, but major powers representing various national interests of different countries that cooperate with each other will be able to reach agreements of universal approval. This may be the scenario of future democracy in international relations.

After all, the Copenhagen Accord does set out a framework for verification of greenhouse gas emission commitments and establishes a "high-level panel" to assess financial and technological contributions by rich countries to help poor countries. After negotiations, all sides have managed to preserve their bottom lines. Further negotiations next year will bring more fascinating power contests regarding global governance of climate change.

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