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Expectations for the Copenhagen climate summit

The Copenhagen climate summit (COP15) is in full swing this week. Approximately 20,000 delegates from 192 countries will be in attendance for the United Nations’ 15th annual climate convention. This will be one of the most important meetings for environmental progress in decades. With the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012, new regulatory systems must be put in place to control global carbon emissions.

For those who intend to follow the news this week, it’s important to understand the goals of the climate summit. The best case scenario is that all nations will form a legally binding agreement and pledge to reduce their contribution to carbon emissions. Few believe that this will be the end result.

Keeping an eye on the progress at COP15, we’re likely to see some positive changes. In anticipation of this event, nations like the United Kingdom have already set new goals for reducing their carbon emissions. But, it’s likely not all nations will jump on board, and this will create a kind of environmental arms race between countries.

Some nations like Australia, are pledging compliance using deceitful methods. They failed to  include the agricultural industry in their reduction goals which is one of the nation’s biggest climate change contributors. Meaning that their positive impact will not be as profound as they want the world to think. This country clearly has political motivations for jumping on board with these initiatives, and this is a trend we’re likely to see this week from other nations.

It may be a skeptic’s view, but we need to be prepared to sit back and observe the environmental arms race. This week, nations will try to one-up each other by suggesting and complying to environmental initiatives, with the goal of redeeming their political image. While on paper, there may be indications of advancement, we can’t take everything at face value. Only future analysis of numbers that talk to climate change reduction with demonstrate true progress.

Meanwhile, this meeting of global leaders is ironically making a negative contribution of its own to climate change. Most are travelling by air, contributing to an industry that’s among the top polluters.

As the climate summit plays out this week, we all need to align our expectations. In theory, this week could bring about great improvement; but in reality, it’s likely not everything will be as it seems.