Western leaders seem to be pulling the plug on the Copenhagen climate change meet even before it is due to start. Everyone who is someone in the developed world is now saying nothing much could be expected from it. They are talking of some compromise formula that would keep the talks go on - a Bali meet encore.
Bali talks had collapsed in muddle in December 2007 - the leaders only agreed to meet again. And the meeting time has come. It is to start on Dec.7. It is to go on for ten days.
A new pact to replace the Kyoto protocol which expires in 2012 was expected to be reached in Copenhangen, the Danish capital. The new pact to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions must be in place by the end of 2010 to leave two years for nations to ratify it before it comes into force from January 1, 2013. But it looks increasingly unlikely.
When sunlight strikes the Earth's surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation, trap the heat in the atmosphere and reemit the waves downward causing the temperature of the earth to go up.
And this is called the "greenhouse effect," because of a similar effect produced by the glass panes of a greenhouse, where plants are grown under controlled conditions.
Many greenhouse gases occur naturally, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Others such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) result exclusively from human industrial processes. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by the burning of solid waste, wood and wood products, and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal).
Nitrous oxide emissions occur during various agricultural and industrial processes, and when solid waste or fossil fuels are burned.
Methane is emitted when organic waste decomposes, whether in landfills or in connection with livestock farming.
Methane emissions also occur during the production and transport of fossil fuels.
Emissions of methane and carbon dioxide have reached record high, says World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations.
Even the normally conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned failure to act now to contain greenhouse gas emissions could prove prohibitively costly for the entire world. Still politicians find it difficult to move on.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen flew to Singapore overnight for a surprise visit to urge the Asian-Pacific leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, to find a minimal consensus on climate talks in the three weeks left before the conference.
But after the meetings he threw enough hints to show that a legally binding emission cut agreement was still far away. He was modest in his hopes of a "political binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance" that would in turn "provide a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come."
Mike Froman, a White House deputy national security adviser, told reporters that none of the leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum "thought it was likely we would reach a final agreement in Copenhagen, and yet they felt it was important that Copenhagen be a step forward."
Froman said the first step would be to have all 191 countries involved in the Copenhagen summit signing on to a framework that includes key ingredients such as how to finance the coordinated effort to battle climate change. The second step, a binding deal on cutting carbon emissions, would be worked out in further negotiations.
"I think the two steps was meant to reflect the realistic assessment that it was unrealistic to expect a full legally binding international agreement to be reached between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days," Froman said Sunday.
President Obama, fighting a battle on various fronts, is in no position to commit himself to binding targets on emission reduction. Nor are the emerging giants like China and India willing to place environment ahead of development. So the impasse is expected to continue well beyond Copenhagen.
"We reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen," the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) said in a joint statement after their two-day annual summit.
But they did not mention any target for slashing emissions, thus backing off from an earlier draft of the declaration.
The draft had included the target of halving emissions by 2050, said Yi Xianliang, an official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and negotiator for the Copenhagen climate talks.
A 50-per-cent reduction by 2050 "did appear in the draft," he told a news conference on Saturday.
However, as the issue was very controversial, he said the target was omitted from the final version of the declaration following a "collective decision."