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Danish Frenzy

This kind of drama — the “leaking” of furtive texts, the kneejerk outrage — is part of the routine of climate negotiations.

This post originally appeared on POLITICO.

“Climate summit in disarray” screamed one headline yesterday. On the news that the Danish government, which chairs the Copenhagen climate conference, had developed a proposed compromise climate agreement, many governments, NGOs and media outlets reacted with outrage. The chair of a negotiation had had the temerity to think about what the outcome of the negotiation might look like. And then write it down - on actual, old-fashioned paper. See how exciting our lives are?

So what does this all mean? Behind the raw passions that only a sketchy leaked document can unleash, what impact does this have on the negotiations, and the prospects for a deal?

The chair of a conference is supposed to help countries explore areas of compromise. To help them strike a deal. Indications are that the Danish government has taken several shots at this—that the leaked document is not the Danish proposal but a Danish proposal, albeit from the Prime Minister’s office.

That said some aspects of the situation are certainly novel. The President of the COP is actually the outgoing Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, not the PM’s office. Given the round-the-clock globe-trotting diplomacy that Hedegaard has pursued all year, the fact that texts are emerging from other parts of the host country government has raised eyebrows. Second, the chairs of the various UN negotiating groups now worry about being rendered irrelevant. Third, developing countries are understandably anxious when they see a text so in tune with U.S. demands.

But it is important to remember that this kind of drama—the “leaking” of furtive texts, the kneejerk outrage—is part of the routine of climate negotiations.

Yesterday will not derail the high level talks in which so many countries have invested so much. It was not a day of selling out, although, with plenty of satisfied smirks at the Danish PM’s travails, it certainly provided 24 hours of schadenfreude.


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