Whoever picked Copenhagen as the site for December’s climactic international conference on climate change was probably not a travel agent. The Danish capital is a charming city—Tivoli Gardens in midsummer is a delight, and there’s a sweet set of pedestrian streets in the heart of midtown that always bustles. But December, on average, is the wettest month of the year, with the highest humidity and the fewest hours of sunshine—on average, about 45 minutes a day. That should put everyone in a good mood!
And if not, there’s always the subject at hand: the single most contentious global negotiation ever carried out. It’s designed to come up with a successor to the Kyoto treaty, which itself was torture to negotiate—but it only demanded action from the developed countries, and the cuts it called for were miniscule. This time almost every nation on earth has a real stake.
By stake, I mean: The outcome of these talks will mean, literally, life and death for some of the nations involved. And they’ve realized this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position,” Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister who will be leading the African Union delegation, said recently in Addis Ababa. “If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.”