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Copenhagen: Historic Failure That Will Live in Infamy

There is nothing in this deal that would persuade an energy utility that the era of dirty coal is over. And the implications for humanity of that simple fact are profound.

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Until politicians recognise that, they're kidding themselves, and, more than that, they're kidding us too.

Not all of our politicians deserve the opprobrium of a dismayed world. Our own Ed Miliband fought hard, on no sleep, for a better outcome; while Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva offered to financially assist other developing countries to cope with climate change, and put a relatively bold carbon target on the table. But the EU didn't move on its own commitment (one so weak we'd actually have to work hard not to meet it), while the United States offered nothing and China stood firm.

Before the talks began, I was of the opinion that we would know Copenhagen was a success only when plans for new coal-fired power stations across the developed world were dropped. If the giant utilities saw in the outcome of Copenhagen an unmistakable sign that governments were now determined to act, and that coal plants this century would be too expensive to run under the regime agreed at this meeting, then this summit would have succeeded.

Instead, as details of the agreement emerged last night, we received reports of Japanese opposition MPs popping champagne corks as they savoured the possible collapse of their new government's carbon targets.

It's not just that we didn't get to where we needed to be, we've actually ceded huge amounts of ground. There is nothing in this deal – nothing – that would persuade an energy utility that the era of dirty coal is over. And the implications for humanity of that simple fact are profound.

I know we Greens are partial to hyperbole. We use language as a bludgeon to direct attention to the crisis we are facing, and you will hear much more of it in the coming days and weeks. But, really, it is no exaggeration to describe the outcome of Copenhagen as a historic failure that will live in infamy.

In a single day, in a single space, a spectacle was played out in front of a disbelieving audience of people who have read and understood the stark warnings of humanity's greatest scientific minds. And what they witnessed was nothing less than the very worst instincts of our species articulated by the most powerful men who ever lived.


Joss Garman is a Greenpeace activist and co-founder of Plane Stupid.

 
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