[JURIST] US President Barack Obama acknowledged [press release] Sunday that it is unlikely that the December UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) [official website] in Copenhagen, Denmark, will produce a legally binding agreement addressing global climate change. Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman said that it is impractical to expect that a final, legally binding agreement could be negotiated in time for the summit in three weeks. At meetings for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) [official website] in Singapore, Obama and other leaders agreed with Danish Prime Minister and incoming COP15 host Lars Lokke Rasmussen [official profile, in Danish] that the summit should produce a five- to eight-page document with "precise language of a comprehensive political agreement" and negotiations should continue into 2010 to develop a binding legal treaty. Obama recognized [text] that the Copenhagen summit will serve as an important step in developing an international global warming treaty and that the US remains open to an agreement. Also Monday, 44 environmental ministers gathered [AFP report] in Copenhagen for a two-day closed meeting to plan for the conference and develop strategies to rescue the political climate deal.
The 192-nation conference in Copenhagen was originally designed to produce a new global climate change treaty, replacing the controversial 1997 Kyoto Protocol [JURIST news archive] expiring in 2012, which the US did not sign. However, many world leaders have conceded that reaching an agreement at the conference is unlikely. Last month, Director of the UN secretary-generals Climate Change Support Team Janos Pasztor additionally conceded [JURIST report] that the summit might not produce a treaty, but encouraged participating representatives to work toward defining the content of an eventual, legally-binding agreement [press release]. Thus far, Western countries have been unable to convince developing nations to commit to reductions in emissions when the Western world has not done so either. In March, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change announced [JURIST report] at a UN Convention on climate change that the US is committed [video] to the creation of an international treaty designed to combat global warming, but that such efforts would only succeed if they were economically feasible. Negotiations on a new treaty began [JURIST report] last year.