Together with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leaders of Russia, Brazil, Japan, the European Union and of other important countries, Obama went to work. But it did not go quite as the Nobel Peace Prize-winner had imagined. Only Norbert Röttgen, Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety remained optimistic. In spite of the tough negotiations, a compromise can be found, he said. “Today the die will be cast.”
Instead a fiasco had begun making itself visible and felt. It began during the night of Friday and Saturday. A small group of negotiators assembled from among the 30 important and representative countries, among them Germany, were still discussing the main features and principles to be included in a twelve-point document. It was titled “The Copenhagen Accord” and consisted of a three-page collection of vague aims, without specific legally-binding goals that were to be achieved.
Although China is among the worst climate polluters and has had a long ascent in becoming an industrial power deserving of respect and recognition, Premier Wen Jiabao was not among the participants in the talks-not that his participation was not desired. To the contrary!
According to rumors in the Bella Center, US President Barack Obama at about 11 PM, had impatiently asked to speak with Wen Jiabao in order to advance the discussion. But Obama had to wait. Wen, who, it was rumored, had rarely left his hotel room, could not be found. Finally, the US delegation located him in a room set aside for negotiations. A visibly furious Obama, according to reports, stormed into the room. “Are you now ready to talk with me, Premier Wen?” he was reported to have shouted. “Are you now ready? Premier Wen, are you now ready to talk with me?” What a scene for a US president.
Wen was not alone in the room at the time when Obama quite literally burst into the room, according to participants. At the time, the Premier was in a conversation with India’s head of state, Mammohan Singh and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. Suddenly the group saw itself forced into a conversation with the US president.
At the insistence of the impatient Obama, this unplanned and coincidentally-assembled negotiating round and participants, agreed on a minimal compromise.
Obama should have discussed, coordinated with and agreed to this compromise with his closest partners: the European Union or the G77 Developing Nations. Instead, at about 10:25 PM, he called together a number of American journalists for an impromptu press conference. There he announced, the “Copenhagen Accord” as the conclusion and product of the two-week long conference. He was aware, that many countries would consider the result as insufficient and unsatisfactory. More, however, was not achievable.
He thought it a significant achievement and milestone that large developing countries like India and China had, for the first time, recognized the necessity of reducing emissions and accepted to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
With that, he packed his bags and flew home.
I suspect they’ll be happy if he stays there.