DAVID Cameron was on safe ground in his Observer article on Sunday when he predicted that there would be no big deal on emission controls at the UN Climate Change conference which opened in Cancun, Mexico, yesterday. The organisers of the conference have been saying for some time that this week's meeting should be used to re-set objectives that were lost in the chaos of the final stages of the Copenhagen Conference one year ago. It has needed a year to refute allegations of poor science and to look more carefully at the claims of less developed countries that they should not have to pay for pollution caused by major industrial countries. Furthermore, the global economic situation has moved against any bold initiatives with substantial financial implications and public opinion is more concerned with the present than the future. The strongest argument for bidding time, however, is the present inability of President Obama to make any commitment on emission reductions in the face of a hostile Congress; since no deal would be meaningful without the participation of the world's largest polluter of the atmosphere it is better to use Cancun to prepare for a more productive outcome at the 2011 conference. Disappointing, certainly, but the important thing is to keep the climate change project on the road. Another major disappointment like Copenhagen could encourage its opponents to try to call the whole thing off.
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