It’s 4 a.m. and I’m jet-lagging in a hotel room in Brussels. Italian soccer highlights on the muted TV, ragged graffiti scrawled on the nearly 200-year-old walls of the Jardin Botanique just outside my window.
I’m here with nearly 100 other journalists from around the world for a conference hosted by the European Journalism Center. The way I see it, what this get-together is basically about is this …
The EU is briefing the international press on how they see the lay of the land leading up to the big climate conference in Cancun, Mexico in late November and early December. That’ll be a year after the much-ballyhooed Copenhagen conference fizzled, failing to produce an agreement on a global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto accords, which are set to expire at the end of 2012.
Smaller meetings over the past year — including sub-minister-level get-togethers in Bonn in August and Tianjin, China earlier this month — haven’t broken the log-jam between the developing economies (China, India, Brazil, etc.) and the developed economies (US, Europe, Japan, etc.). There’s already a sense that if nothing comes out of Cancun, the whole idea of a global climate treaty may be toast, and no one has a clear idea of what would come next.
The Europeans are heavily invested in seeing a treaty come together. They jumped out in front of what they had hoped would be an international climate action bandwagon. Now, western economies are navigating a wobbly recovery from the banking and real-estate meltdowns, and the US, Australia and other developed countries are getting cold feet. The Europeans are finding themselves the only ones with an economy-wide carbon market and they don’t want to be out on that limb alone.
So over the next few days I’ll be bringing you news and observations about where Europe is headed in the run-up to what’s shaping up to be a critical decision point in how Earthlings respond to the unfolding derangement of their planet’s heating and cooling system.