Jeffrey Sachs: ‘Copenhagen expectations unlikely to be fulfilled’

The Copenhagen climate summit is meant to produce a legally binding, global agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sachs said he hopes that some progress will be made during the meeting, such as an agreement on general principles for action on climate change.

The Copenhagen climate summit will begin December 7. The meeting is meant to produce a legally binding, global agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But many leaders are voicing doubt that hopes for Copenhagen will be met. EarthSky spoke to Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Jeffrey Sachs: There have been very high expectations for Copenhagen, but I fear they are unlikely to be fulfilled. I don’t think we’ll be able to reach a comprehensive agreement.

Sachs said he is concerned about what he sees as a lack of expert views included in the negotiations.

Jeffrey Sachs: I think there’s a big flaw in that the negotiators tend to be diplomats, but they don’t know the engineering possibilities, they don’t know necessarily the technology solutions they should be discussing. And so there’s a disconnect between what we need to know to input into solutions, and what’s actually being discussed.

He added that progress in talks leading up to Copenhagen was slow, because several influential countries – including the U.S. – would not set specific targets for emissions cuts.

Jeffrey Sachs: I somehow believe that we’re not going to reach a defining moment as it were, but rather continue discussions towards that more comprehensive framework after Copenhagen.

Sachs said he hopes that some progress will be made during the meeting, such as an agreement on general principles for action on climate change.

Jeffrey Sachs: We’ll get somewhere, maybe a political agreement on broad principles, maybe the announcements of several important initiatives on key technologies.

Other experts and world leaders are more optimistic, saying that momentum is building towards a meaningful agreement as Copenhagen approaches.

Lindsay Patterson