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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Have world leaders failed again on climate legislation?

December 18th, 2009
01:42 PM ET

“There is no time to waste. Now I believe it's the time for the nations and the people of the world to come behind a common purpose. We are ready to get this done today, but there has to be movement on all sides." 

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/18/obama.art.jpg caption= "Can President Obama’s arrival in Copenhagen save the day?"]

President Obama's speech after arriving on the final day of the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen might have raised the mood of delegates, but expectations that world leaders will agree a meaningful deal to put the world on the path towards a less polluting future remain muted.

His talk of a "common purpose" is already looking shaky to say the least. Speaking Friday afternoon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Obama was like "an emperor who arrives in the middle of the night" before adding: "If the climate was a bank it would have been saved already."

One cannot help concluding that another climate conference will pass up the opportunity to reach a global consensus.

But whatever comes of today, the final frantic day of negotiation, how should we feel? Disappointed at another failure? Or should we be reflecting more positively on the progress that has been made – it is widely predicted that a deal to protect the rainforests – through the U.N.-REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) – will be agreed. Small steps maybe, but important nonetheless.

Does the lack of agreement mirror the mood of the wider world. Everyone knows that they should be more environmentally conscious but how many people are really prepared to change their lifestyle?

Citizens elect political leaders to lead. Has Copenhagen shown the signs that they are, at last, doing just that? Or will they be remembered for missing one of the last opportunities to act decisively on climate change? Let us know what you think.


Filed under:  General
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Josh

    Seriously!! 100 billion to help countries that need help do to the climate changes. What about our own JOBLESS!, HOMELESS! and STARVING! United States Citizens. Take care of us first then worry about extending your cape and saving the world.

    December 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  2. Tom Jacobs

    It is terrible and depressing that our elected politicians can't work together to get this done. At the heart of it, we are all to greedy. Everyone wants action on this, but no one is willing to give up anything.

    If we are going to get this done – and we won't, at least not in this round – the US, China, and Europe have to lead the way, have to commit the MOST, and then follow through with their words. But it doesn't appear that we have any politicians in the US or Europe who have that kind of leadership and foresight, nobody who will say "This may cost me my job, but it's right".

    The world needs a leader – a hero. And it is not Barack Obama

    December 18, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  3. david

    We can't just conclude failure,just have to waite and see the outcome of the gathering. In a very short period of time, we shall all know the truths.

    December 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  4. paulo azevedo chaves

    President's Lula final speech in Cop15 was eloquent and meaningful ; President's Obama speech in Cop15 was frustrating and meaningless. COP15 failure is to be charged on the irresponsible anti-environment position of China and US. Shame on their leaders! And Al Gore for President and Schwarzeneger for Vice-President!

    December 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  5. Stanley Selvamoni

    We have failed to prove the poor that we can live without their cost

    December 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  6. Mitzie

    It's not only a question of what the politicians are doing it's also a question of what are you doing?

    Are you willing to change your ways? Are you willing to give up your Humvee, turn down the heat and stop buying all the stuff, you don't really need but feel you must have? Probably not.

    It's so easy to demand the politicians do something, but try and look to yourself and see what you can do.

    December 18, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  7. Helene

    Seriously, you JOBLESS!, HOMELESS! and STARVING! United States Citizens emit 4 times as much CO2 than the average world citizen!!!
    I think it´s high time that you too get on the train and take responsibility!

    December 18, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  8. Michael

    Posted by Josh: "Seriously!! 100 billion to help countries that need help do to the climate changes. What about our own JOBLESS!, HOMELESS! and STARVING! United States Citizens. Take care of us first then worry about extending your cape and saving the world."

    Josh, if everyone thought as selfishly as you this world would be a very lonely place. Visit developing countries and see what life is like for the jobless, homeless, and starving over there, and I'm sure you wouldn't see things in the same light. And if you did, that's REALLY SAD!!

    December 18, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  9. Rodrigo Ribeiro

    I guess we should blame the savage capitalism for the failure of COP15. Unfortunately, the world leaders do not take into consideration environmentals goal when they negotiate trade agreements. For instance, We all promote pollution when we import products from China due to the polluted industries low cots. In the end of the day, It is all about money.

    December 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  10. Boris Sawyer

    No, it's not a failure. Sometimes no decision IS a decision. The outcome is a Decision based on the reality. We should agree with it and accept it.

    December 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  11. Backdoor Protectionist

    The American people should be given a true environmental solution. Going forward all products and services sold in the US need to be certified environmentally friendly in manufacture. Certification should be rigorous and constant by US citizens. Services should be performed by people that are environmentally certified to use clean electricity in their work. This could be a very good tool to undo the globalization of labor. What would happen is all products that are made in China and the Services being provided from India will be few and far between. Products will need to be manufactured only in countries with highly developed legal systems and enforcement infrastructure, inspectors, police etc.. This would force China and India and other countries where labor is reprehensibly cheap because of a lack of environmental enforcement to be penalized to bring their production up to code. Meanwhile the developed countries will have a fair chance at selling products and services because the cost will be equalized. I am not in favor of global government and I know for a fact that no creature on earth can impact the climate however, if this scheme is to proceed I recommend US citizens insist that it be carried out in a way that will benefit the population of the world by bringing up the standard of living of everyone. We can not enforce tariffs but we can impose penalties in lieu of them to stop the influx of products and services made with exploited labor from other countries by way of 'green' fees. None of this cap and trade nonsense either that is a government scam to legalize kickbacks.

    December 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  12. Andrew Gardner

    Really it's just a shame that we discovered fire. We should have continued to live in caves, gnaw raw bones and bonk seals over the head and wear their skins.. Then we wouldn't have all this fuss!. Why not go back to these jolly times?

    December 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  13. Carl Lu

    One thing the leaders have to, yet have failed to understand:

    It's definitely IMPOSSIBLE to come up with a document that every country would be happy about.

    It's ridiculous that they should expect an effective international emission cut and a still booming domestic economy at the same time.

    They have to be prepared for economic setbacks and rising unemployment rate. That's just the price we must pay for what we have done to the planet. We have made serious mistakes and there will be punishments. If we don't punish ourselves now, we will be punished by Earth, and nobody knows what that will be. So if we are not willing to sacrifice and make changes, then the conference is a joke.

    The decisions are supposed to be very painful and difficult. That's why we need all those leaders there. But they are just too greedy to make enough sacrifices, to stop blaming and to give up their fantasy that they can outsmart other leaders, finally sign on a win-win document for its country and back home received by the people like a hero.

    Leaders, at least remember that we are a species called human, not an ugly combination of all these blocs and unions and countries.

    If you succeed, you'll be remembered as models and heroes; if you fail, you'll be remembered as cowards and hypocrites. But either way, you'll NEVER be remembered as leaders and representatives of some pathetic interest groups or political blocs. Think, and act.

    December 18, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  14. Uwe

    It is fantastic that the world is coming together to do something about climate change!
    It is fantastic that the poor have made a successful stand!
    It will take a few more weeks for the reality to sink in (especially for the US, China and the loggers) that it is time to really act – but they will do it because there is no alternative!
    Good luck to the world and Blessed holidays.

    December 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  15. Espen Lunde Nielsen

    Josh/
    You'll need to see a bit further than your own doorsteps here! Do you really prefer having a job while countries disappears and people starve in third world countries??

    December 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  16. ushanga

    This CLIMATE WARMING SUMMIT shouldn't have taken place in Copenhagen where the thermometer reads -15°C,
    but in the Sahel where it reads 55°C...Then the so-called world leaders would understand what they are talking about.

    December 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  17. Andre

    If each and every one of us does not do everything in our power to get global warming under control, then our grandchildren will curse us, and rightly so.

    December 18, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  18. David

    Nation states were created to define (often short-sightedly), defend and promulgate their own economic, military, religious and cultural self-interests at the expense of other nation states. They have failed time and time again to cooperate for a larger good, whether that's the League of Nations, United Nations, nuclear proliferation, land mines, armed conflicts, Aids, poverty, human trafficking, human rights, global economy, global environment or global climate concerns. And now that most nation states have adopted some form or other of democracy, there is no more 'them v us'. It's the perfect storm for continued disaster, and it will likely only be luck that will determine a more pleasant outcome as human and organisational evolution are unlikely to keep pace with the complex demands we now face.

    December 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  19. Jan Jensen

    I sit here totally flabbergasted over the worlds leaders lacking ability to reach any kind of agreement here in Copenhagen! Many sad but none the less correct things have been written above! Josh however summed up perfectly why this all fell apart or at least half of it did. Now we just need a Chen Lu to point out for the rest of us, that we should believe their own measured and publicized future emission values and besides that butt out of their business.
    -
    My thoughts go out the all of those millions who will suffer, die or best case just have to flee from their homes because we in the west insist to keep following the quest for growth and higher living standards.

    Shame on us!

    December 18, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  20. A. Smith, Oregon

    At least the American President went to the Global Climate Meeting, that's a large departure to Big Oil's Bush-Cheney administration.

    Big Oil has far to many Republican lawmakers in their pocket and they are going to obstruct, block and work to defeat any attempts to cap and trade the toxic spewing fumes from Big Oil's power plants and automobile industries.

    The only way for actual Global Climatic Legislation to be enacted in America is by electing more Democratic House and Senators.

    December 18, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  21. A. Smith, Oregon

    An interesting development with our S. American neighbors has resulted in an agreement among them to FORCE American Corporations that have clear cut their forests, left huge toxic waste dumps at their mine sites, left huge toxic medical waste dumps in their country to PAY those country's to clean them up, and repair their forested regions.

    I'm not sure if those country's are planning to push those American Corporations into the European Court system which has real teeth against corrupt American company practices or not. I'm sure more of you will hear more about this as those country's move against American Corporations in the future.

    December 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  22. Vanessa

    There is no solution in climate change, what happened in this world its written in the bible and shall be done. Tornado, earthquake, poverty, war, drought and crime. Those are the sign of coming of Jesus Christ for the second time...Nothing here in this world is permanent.

    December 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  23. FreD

    In reply to josh: out of those 100 billions which stand for the 2010-2020 period, US has so far agreed to pay 3.6 , EEC10.5 and Japan 11B for the 2010-2012 period.
    3.6 billions is (a lot) less than what 1 month of war costs to the US right now...
    Stop the groaning, you've already been heard in Washington !

    December 19, 2009 at 7:49 am | Reply
  24. joe

    Just like health care the legislation to limit carbon will be watered down to appease the big money making corporations.. thats how the system works.. nobody in particular is to blame for the failure of this conference.. it failed before it got started...

    December 19, 2009 at 7:57 am | Reply
  25. colin

    The political will to make changes will only happen when the situation gets so bad that the people who elect them demand action even at the expense of the economy.

    That hasn't happened yet, either because the scientific evidence is not clear or, more likely, because the "anti-climate change" corporations who stand to lose if there are forced cuts in emissions, have done a good job in persuading enough people that this is all a hoax.

    We will have to wait for a true catastrophe before something happens. Sad, but true.

    December 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  26. Ward Whittaker

    As no agreement can or ever will please every country, be it on banking, environment, arms buildup etc, I, as a futurist and wishing to remain politically neutral, believe that if humanity is going to survive, we must start preparing ourselves for the time we will have a totally dominant global government. It may not happen for another 50-100 years, but it will happen, and the sooner the better.

    As individual countries we duplicate everything, all efforts, waste, inventions, etc, so only a global government would have the power to change our current mindsets. The issues are, how we will get to the point of a global government, and how to give the everyone in the world a say in electing the head of this global government. As for the first, Nationalism will try to defeat this possibility at every turn and may well win out. The second is that even if it happened, how would we all have a fair say in a global election. The answer is that it can't be done peacefully.

    Our current economic theories, cultural differences and our current global model won't permit it. So if it can't be done peacefully, after thinking long and hard, I personally favor the "Benevolent Dictator" theory, as I call it.

    Can there be anyone out there rich enough and devious enough with the technology to bluff mankind into sitting up and taking notice (sort of like a good Dr No). I he/she were to say "I am taking over and this is how it will be", and then they actually do do good.

    From my humble knowledge the word "dictator" came from Roman times when if, Rome was in dire straits, the senate could appoint a "dictator" to rule for a determined period of time. This was done to speed up the decision making process and the dictator was usually well chosen and he handed back power to the senate and consuls after the crisis had abated.

    So, there we have my rant folks, If anything of this magnitude is to be passed, we only need one good man, let's call him Dr Yes.

    December 19, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  27. Garsett

    When you see the Copenhagen summit as a result, then it's a failure.
    But as a process, I think it's fairly successful, with the US, China and India governments now seriously mobilizing. Nothing like this would have been possible under Bush. Thanks to frontrunners as Japan and Europe we can now start the serious implementation of new ways for transporting, climatizing and powering a society that benefit all world citizens.

    December 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  28. 朱腾

    Maybe we should wait until the end of this summit because no one can really know the outcome of the gathering.

    December 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  29. Xing

    People in the world should be given the fruitful result of climate change solution, but they were not. Obama should show US's mature leadership role in the summit by contributing to reduce more than 17% of carbon volume in its home country, but it does not, as a result, every thing seems not meaningful. However, we hope that all rich countries will try their best to save this world for our next generation.

    December 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  30. Tom

    “100 billion to help countries…” Would this money really go to the right places or to corrupt officials?

    December 19, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  31. Ruud Wedding

    Yes, in my view it is a faillure because

    1. you don't do business with our planet and about the faith of people who live on it.
    2. that what has been called "a deal has been reached" can never be a deal if no one is bind to it.
    3. the entire conference reminds me of those in Nairobi (COP13?)when there wasn't any deal or agreement made too.
    4.it is a shame that everyone at Copenhagen act like little kids while at the same time calling the rest of the world to do something about the climate.

    It's a shame,shame and once again a great shame to the US, China, India and to the countries who ask for billions while they already have taken part in any kind of destruction and pollution.

    December 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  32. Doug

    Josh, your comment shows how you lack the understanding of the impact this will have on economies. The US is a well developed economy that has for many years been poluting the atmosphere, ground and water. Developed nations still have to come to the same point, though in a far more environmentally responsible fasion, this will be far more expensive than normal development and thus the onus os on the G8 to "pay for their past sins" in assiting the developed world.

    We all share the same planet, and even if the US were to go it alone (unlikely considerign the US hasn't even joined Kyoto), the world will still become a dramatically worse place.

    Obama has forever proven that he is a failure, and all the hype and hope that was lavished on him at the start of his presidency woldwide was all in vain. He another bush. and another shamefull episode in America's history

    December 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  33. King

    Good job China and India....for nothing. Guess what! You are both gonna run out of water because the glaciers of The Himalaya gonna melt cause of global warming and what are you gonna do then???

    December 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  34. henry

    Well, Vanessa, it's nice to see that Jesus is on the side of Exxon and Mobil – recommending inaction until all hell breaks loose and the Deluge finally arrives.

    December 19, 2009 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  35. Mohamed Munavvar

    There were many winners though. Hotels, airlines, travel agencies, etc those who normally profit from such events. In this case money went from those cash starved developing countries to businesses of a few rich countries... no surprises!

    December 19, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  36. Dago

    I hope this outcome will let the public opinion put more pressure on the politicians who clearly aren't able to come up with any solutions. If a politician needs to do something drastic regarding climate change to get more votes then he/she will do that. We (people in developed countries) also need to change the way we live. Stop buying crap from around the globe and pay that extra dollar to get something local for example.

    December 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  37. John Dinwiddie

    As I start to add my two bits, I read Vanessa's two bits.

    Vanessa's two bits is far more apt, in combination with the
    minions of fundamentalism, to do us in than mine. Here is
    mine:

    350 PPM CO2 OR ELSE.

    Have the world leaders failed? It is too easy to say that.
    Changing course from the global stupidity that in 1950 inspired
    the film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, is a massive affair.

    But the laws of nature are the real GORT. They do not compromise,
    nor do they do lunch. If the Vanessa is right, well then there
    is nothing to worry about. If she is wrong, a part of her mistake is
    that she not even trying, just hiding in her superstition. There is
    such a thing as real sin, Bible or not. Failure to confront a
    disaster that could lead to the collapse of the environment is quite
    a sin in my book. Vanessa's descendants, if any, are sure to
    remember her role in history.

    December 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  38. tarin

    humans can do a lot for the nature before its too late.people should use thier brains instead of believing in books like bible& koran .

    December 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  39. Wijnandt T. de Vries

    The next quote is 35 years old:
    "... there are no indications that the world's political leaders will deal with the realities until catastrophes occur. The rich countries are using resources with an extravagant disregard for the next generation; and the poor countries appear to be incapable of acting to curb the population increases that are erasing their hope for a better future. In such a world, declarations and manifestos which ignore the imperatives of the limits of growth are empty exercises."

    S. Udall, Ch. Conconi, D. Osterhout, The Energy Balloon (1974), p. 271.

    December 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  40. Bernhard

    Well, what this shows to me, it's that the politicians have no say in the matter whatsoever, they just puppets and useless.
    Maybe we get more accomplished if the next time the real owners (banks, industry, unions etc.) of this planet come together. They make the calls !!!!!
    Looks like it's all about money, no one cares for the other or the planet who sustains us anymore, and I feel ashamed today, that I belong to the human race.
    We lost our selves, to greed and the ego.

    December 19, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  41. Erik Wassenich

    As was discussed by your panel on Saturday, Dec. 19, greed and a lack of knowledge and experience by many people in high places who, unfortunately, do make the wrong decisions. To get global warming under control is relatively easy as long as people decide on individual items, not give up, because it is so confusing to them.
    1. Plant trees world-wide, conserve forests.
    2. Modify polluting factories and plants in order to reduce emissions. Material that is not sent into the air and water can be used profitably making money for the companies. But there is corporate shortsightedness!!
    3. Use more and more solar and wind power to generate electricity.
    4. In Africa, the Middle East, and in other hot, dry areas, combine the electricity gained from solar and wind power to pump water from below the ground, into drip-irrigation hoses in order to water trees and other plants (the greening of Africa, the Middle East...). Use the electricity also to give the natives electric cooking stoves REPLACING WOOD BURNING STOVES.
    When the necessary steps are taken ONE AT A TIME, the task is much less formidable.

    December 19, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  42. Erik Wassenich

    How to slow/reduce global warming:

    1. Reduce the emissions of all manufacturing plants by using the so-called 'waste components' in manufacturing and electricity generating plants. This will reduce the cost of manufacturing/generating electricity, however, it requires initial investments. These investments can be written off. All this would be easy if company directors would not have these '3 months (quaterly) profit fears' and would think only long term.
    2. Every country must have a tree planting and forest conservation program. Many of today's unemployed could be put to work planting trees – a year-round program.
    3. . Use more and more solar and wind power to generate electricity.
    4. In Africa, the Middle East, and in other hot, dry areas, combine the electricity gained from solar and wind power to pump water from below the ground, pump the water into drip-irrigation hoses in order to water trees and other plants (the greening of Africa, the Middle East...). Use the electricity generated also to give the natives of Africa, the Middle East electric cooking stoves REPLACING WOOD BURNING STOVES, thus stopping the cutting of trees for fire wood.
    The Sahara and many areas of the Middle East once were covered by forests. Israel once had the plan to replant the cedar trees that once were plentifull, but nothing is being done. Fighting the Palistinians is more important! Saudi Arabia once was the the 'paradise'. Now there are only small paradises – the hotel resorts along the coasts. If the hotels can create paradises, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia can too!

    December 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  43. Ted Heyermann

    Climate change: the biggest hoax of the century. None of the computer models 5 or 10 years ago were accurate. The so called experts can't even forcast weather a month ahead, how on earth can they predict what's happening 50 or 100 years hence?. Temperature has not increased since 1998; in fact 2008 was one of the coolest years of the decade. The IPCC for example has not considered solar activity, the wobble of thearth, solar wind and cosmic rays, or even the importance of clouds. The advocats of climate change are the same type of people that predicted the cooling of the earth back in1970. Remember "The big Chill", Time Magazine 1970 followed by News Week in 1971.
    Ted Heyermann – Beaulieu sur Mer, France

    December 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  44. A. Smith, Oregon

    The current problem is that Big Oil has ruled and dictated thru its Republican lawmakers the present disorder of technology which greatly favors Big Oil, go figure!

    World Leaders lack the adequate and full alternatives to Big Oil at this time, both in their infra-structure as well as in the implementations.

    Current alternatives to Big Oil such as electrical motors have been around for 100 years, and are vastly more efficient that Big Oil's natural gas, gasoline, diesel and hydrogen powered engines.

    The worlds and especially America's Electrical Grid isn't setup for a rapid sweeping switch from fueled vehicles to solely electric vehicles.

    Hence the wavering, World Leaders do not have adequate alternatives to entirely phase out toxic spewing Big Oil's products.

    Specifically because Republican lawmakers have blocked, obstructed and gutted any and all funding for start-up company's alternative's to Big Oil.

    December 21, 2009 at 12:04 am | Reply
  45. A. Smith, Oregon

    Global Warming is a fact. Big Oil is trying to confuse the public in their attempts to directly shift liability and blame stemming from its cause.

    Just like Big Tobacco did previously, Big Oil is trying to shift blame and liability aware from its toxic spewing power plants and vehicles. The dots are being connected and Big Oil's liability to what is happening now in Africa, other nations and island people needs to be addressed in the European Court system that has real teeth against American Corporations abuses.

    December 21, 2009 at 2:26 am | Reply
  46. Enoch

    I believe each leader of a country should take care of their own messes before looking into other coutries messes !

    Trying to fight the whole environment in the world is not a easy task .....

    Global warming and death due to natural disasters are eminent to happen if we dont care about the surroundings we live in.

    Chow !

    December 30, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Reply

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