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Climate summit - will New York succeed where Copenhagen failed?

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Climate summit - will New York succeed where Copenhagen failed?


There have been lots of upbeat and rousing statements about the UN climate summit in New York on Tuesday, September 23.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has promised action on climate change saying “by seeing what is possible, others can find inspiration and follow suit” while Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action, said tackling the problem was an “opportuity rather than a burden”.

But are there genuine grounds for optimism, given what happened in Copenhagen five years ago?

Before Copenhagen, Yvo de Boer, the UN’s climate chief, claimed it was unlikely the conference would fail

Yet the summit failed to produce a legally-binding global agreement on tackling climate change.

Instead there was an accord between the US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil, calling for deep cuts in emissions.

But the text was not adopted by the other participating countries – it was officially taken note of – and was criticised as being ‘imperfect’ and only a ‘modest success’.

The lack of a deal in Copenhagen saw anger replace hope as the city’s over-riding emotion.

Nicolas Sarkozy, then president of France, called the deal the “best one possible” but Pascal Husting, director of Greenpeace France, called it a disaster.

But some do believe things will be different this time around, despite the absence from the summit of leaders from China and India.

Mary Robinson, Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on climate change, told the Guardian: “This is a different environment to Copenhagen. Pressure on leaders for an agreement is building up more than 12 months ahead. I think leaders realise they need to have transformative change.”

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