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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The European Union is going for a reduction of 20 percent of carbon emissions by 2020 (the reference year being 1990). If a strong agreement is reached at Copenhagen that number increases to 30 percent reduction. The European Union is ready to seal the deal but skeptics tend to argue that it’s not “such a heroic act” to go for 20 percent reductions considering the strong climate legislation already in place. Add to that the “positive” consequences of the economic crisis on carbon emissions as well as the current carbon trading structures and Europe is “almost there”. So in my opinion the European Union should not stick to 20 but definitely go for 30 percent reduction, full stop!

The United States is currently looking at a reduction of carbon emissions of 17 percent by 2020. Although the reference year is 1990, the US is looking at 2005 as a reference for carbon reductions. This in fact comes down to a reduction of 4 percent (yes you read it right!) and not the 17 they’re bragging about. In reality the US in not ready to seal the deal as the Senate has not passed President’s Obama’s carbon reduction proposal yet.

Brazil is the most prominent voice of the G77 (developing nations) and is ready to go for 30 percent carbon reduction. Apart from the difficulties surrounding the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is ready to seal the deal. And even where the rainforest is concerned, Brazil is looking into the possibilities of reducing the deforestation by 80 percent. In my opinion they are willing to go a long way.

India is not doing too bad either. Ready to cut carbon emissions with 20 to 25 percent by 2020 and working hard to invest in renewable energy. India is ready to seal the deal where it not that Saudi Arabia is – as usual and for obvious reasons – doing everything it can to prevent a climate deal to be signed.

China is ready to reduce its carbon emissions with 35 to 40 percent by 2020. A bit like India, China is investing a lot in renewable energy and has come up with a very ambitious energy-efficiency five-year plan. China is ready to seal the deal.

Japan is very straightforward and is ready to cut emissions with as much as 25 percent by 2020. The only prerequisite for Japan to seal the deal is to have a strong binding agreement on the table. But I guess that goes for all parties.

Africa is a little different. Their primary reason for being present at the Copenhagen conference is not to propose such or such reduction of their carbon emissions. The goal of Africa is to go home with financial support to deal with the consequences of climate change (adaptation). The African countries are ready to seal the deal, especially because this would mean that the agreements of the Kyoto protocol would remain in place and that financial support would keep on coming to the countries that are most affected by climate change but did almost nothing to contribute to it. I think that’s only fair.

There are a couple of hick-ups though.

The developed nations are ready to reduce carbon emissions but are using tricks like carbon trading and already saved “hot air” (emission levels they didn’t reach in the past and thus “saved” and that they now want to profit from – really it’s more mathematical than ecological) to reach their proposed targets. On top of that most of them won’t hear about a slow-down of their economies, which is in my opinion a big problem: how can you cut emissions if you continue “business as usual”? What they are saying is that if they where to continue to grow like they are doing now (without a climate deal) they would emit X amount of carbon by 2020. They are ready to cut by X percent but based on the forecast of what would be emitted, not on what is actually being emitted today!

There is of course the Kyoto hurdle as well. As we all know the US and China never signed the Kyoto protocol. The European Union is trying to go for a global binding agreement (a replacement for Kyoto) while the US is still not ready (and I think will never be ready) to step into Kyoto. The developing nations on the other had are going for no less than a good and strong Kyoto follow-up, hoping to retain their position and advantages as “non polluters” (as opposed to the “climate debt” of the developed nations).

With only one more day to go that makes for a lot of problems to solve and numbers to agree upon. And basically the discussion is not – and has never been – going in the right direction. I understand the activists outside the Copenhagen doors. What we are seeing is developed nations trying to protect their economies. Especially in this time of economic crisis, I would like to see the leaders of our nations question the world economy instead of trying to figure out how to make everybody “sort of” happy while protecting the one thing that caused all this mess in the first place. Economy – and more particularly brainless consumerism – should have been the premise of the Copenhagen Conference.

By Priscilla Lorenzo