940bacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4More modest goals for climate talks840bacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____More modest goals for climate talksGrand plans for Copenhagen presume too much. Climate change is an issue of pressing global concern, but also of deep disagreement.<p>More than 190 nations converge on Copenhagen over the next two weeks. World leaders are charged with coming to an agreement on carbon emissions that will hold for several decades into the future and are buoyed - and burdened - by ambitions for an unprecedented multilateral consensus. There is a role for grandiose proposals, but equally there should be no false expectations. There is still too much work to be done.</p>
<p>Grand plans for Copenhagen presume too much. Climate change is an issue of pressing global concern, but also of deep disagreement. Not least, the two-week summit should not assume that the scientific debate is closed - evidence of the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions should be tempered by an understanding that climate change models are speculative and reach different conclusions. There is a majority of scientific opinion to support that anthropogenic climate change is occurring, but there is little point in asserting a surety that doesn't exist.</p>
<p>Proponents of strict limits on emissions have portrayed the "failure" to reach a deal at Copenhagen in terms of a climatic disaster in coming decades. But success or failure won't be determined at a single summit, even one as historic as this. Even if everyone agreed on the most ambitious goals - binding limits for emissions - this agreement would mean little without a larger agreement on measures to enforce it.</p>
<p>The foundation for a workable multilateral deal hasn't been laid. A climate deal signed in Kyoto in 1997 provided financial incentives to encourage cleaner energy production but its effort to limit carbon emissions has proven shaky and incomplete at best. Nations signed the agreement - or didn't - based on own their national interests. Preventing such an outcome from happening at Copenhagen will be difficult if not impossible.</p>
<p>The unilateral commitments to lower emissions made by countries such as the United States, China and India are tempered by national economic and political calculations. Time will tell if these pledges are honoured, but at least they have been drawn up in consideration of national realities.
There is also the argument that the economic costs of shifting away from fossil fuels would outweigh the costs of climate change. Agree or disagree, again, but pretending that economic imperatives won't have a bearing on the value of the promises made in Copenhagen just doesn't make sense.</p>
<p>Just because expectations for what happens in Copenhagen over the next two weeks should be tempered does not mean that it can't be a constructive summit. Not least is the opportunity for an open discussion and debate on the issues. There will also be areas of consensus on technological exchange, some form of aid to developing countries to encourage cleaner growth and related agreements on air and water quality. What is certain is that many more decisions remain to be made.</p>