What Can Still Be Accomplished at Copenhagen?

BY Talea Miller  December 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM EST

As climate negotiators prepare to work through the night in Copenhagen, the NewsHour asked several experts at the summit what they think can still be accomplished.

Is there one thing that could still be accomplished at the summit that could make a concrete difference?

12_17_levi[1].jpgMichael Levi, director of the Energy Security and Climate Change program at the Council on Foreign Relations:

There is no single thing that can still be accomplished at Copenhagen. The separable, incremental pieces — a provisional deal on forests, another on short-term financial support for poor countries — are largely done. The prizes remaining to be won at Copenhagen are now all intertwined. The answers to three big questions will determine the outcome.

Will Hillary Clinton’s offer today to work toward $100 billion in global financial support for developing countries win over enough of those countries to push China into a tentative deal? … Is there a deal to be done on verification of big emerging economies’ efforts to cut emissions? … And can the countries here in Copenhagen figure out what to do about the Kyoto protocol?

If these questions are answered the right way, the parties can leave with the basic contours of an agreement – emissions-cutting goals for major countries, potential financial commitments to support them, and the reporting and verification rules for a new regime. If the stars don’t align, however, the parties will be lucky to leave with a declaration of a few basics: their existing national efforts to cut emissions, funding to help the poorest countries through 2012, and perhaps a provisional agreement to prevent deforestation.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, head of the Climate Impacts Group at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies:

One of the bright spots at the climate summit has been the call for action by cities and local governments. Explicit inclusion of the key role of cities and local governments in the text of the agreement can make a tremendous difference in creating on-the-ground solutions as we go forward from the summit. The nations need to recognize that empowerment of cities and local governments will help them to answer the challenges of responding to climate change. Countries don’t have to go it alone in dealing with climate change, but can rely on urban areas, now home to over half the world’s population, to be major actors. This is a concrete, doable, and positive message to include in the agreement.

Jake Schmidt, director of International Climate Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

We need to lock in the commitments to actions that have emerged from key developed and developing countries over the last 2 years. All key emerging economies have signaled that they’ll take steps to address their global warming pollution and all major developed countries have outlined deeper emissions cuts. We must not lose sight of the impact that these actions would have in reducing the world’s global warming pollution.