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Short Cuts: A weak Mr Ban lowers expectations

Mr Ban in Bali
Mr Ban in Bali: Act, but not too ambitious, please… (via OpenDemocracy, Flickr)

One could call it ironic: As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addresses the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, he declares that “time to act is now”. A few minutes later after having stepped down from the podium, he tells reporters that it might be “too ambitious”to set targets for greenhouse-gas emissions in the draft text of the Kyoto follow-up, which is to be negotiated at the conference.

With these words, he surely lowers pressure on the United States, Japan and Canada who all oppose setting emission targets in numbers (not speaking of various other critics from emerging countries like India). The negotiations are close to a deadlock anyway, but Mr Ban’s words may finally have pushed the pointer to an agreement without any binding emission-targets. This would mean to pin all hope in a new American President with a green agenda in 2009 (something which is not sure, after all), and succfessful negotiations about incentives with emerging economies in Asia (something that will be really hard to mediate).

The smell of the smallest possible compromise reaches far beyond Bali and into the future. Of course it will be only in a few years that we will know how the final agreement will look like and whether it will be enough. But as he has not had much of a diplomatic success term of offifce, Mr Ban might be unsuited to push the hesitating nations to commit themselves to binding targets. A weak Secretary-General and stubborn nations could indeed be the ingreedients for a mixture that may turn out to be a tragic one.

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