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Positivist Thinking about Copenhagen-- how leaders talked themselves out of a deal and why it may not matter

A climate deal was possible by Copenhagen. Make no mistake. The way I see it, global leaders talked themselves out of it.

There are a few reports of world leaders playing down the ability to achieve a deal at Cop15:

It started with John Kerry in July.

Then in October and within a week of each other, Sweden's climate envoy Lars-Erik Liljelund and Yves de Boer both down played the possibility of an agreement.

And the flurry of leaders in last two weeks including Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Asian leaders, who all said that a deal at Copenhagen is now unrealistic.

From “It was unrealistic to expect a full, legally binding international agreement to be reached between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days,” said Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for economic affairs.

But neither was Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, "poor nations" or Ban Ki Moon saying that no deal at Copenhagen is not an option.

I'm taking some time for personal improvement and learning about positive psychology and the power of positive thinking.* What I learned today is that it's equally as negative to say that something can't fail as to say that it probably won't happen. Instead of telling themselves it can't be done, world leaders should have been telling themselves that a deal is inevitable. In that way they wouldn't have put themselves either between a rock and hard place-- putting too much stress on the situation to succeed-- nor acted negatively about the deal and talked themselves out of one. [There is a way in which this negativity is indicative of larger social issues in our society, but I'll refrain from getting preachy and digressing...]

But before I drive us too far into the desperation: let's examine the extent to which we need Copenhagen:

Businesses have begun to realize that lowering their carbon footprints not only leads to energy efficiency and a healthy planet but healthier profit margins as well. Last month I spoke with Martin Chilcott, the CEO of about how he sees businesses acceptance of climate change and sustainable business practices. He said, "We’re seeing revolution the way fund managers, investors, and owners are viewing sustainability....Green is now about managing risk better and customer value better." In other words, from the financiers to the boards to the shareholders, businesses are feeling the pressure. Chilcott explained, "If companies aren't managing this well, they aren’t managing risk and customer value well and you probably want to shift investment."

Businesses are properly motivated for green. They don't need governments to tell them to do it anymore, they aren't waiting. From's James Murray today:

"But even if Copenhagen were to fail, there are still plenty of reasons for businesses to invest in low carbon technologies and practices. Energy costs and energy insecurity will rise with or without Copenhagen, while policymakers across the world will continue to work to boost low carbon industries, regardless of any international treaty. The UK's Climate Act and the EU's renewable energy directive, for example, will not be repealed if the Copenhagen talks end in failure and recriminations."

And a US climate bill, no matter how wimpy, is inevitable as well.

Beyond that there is enough social pressure to respond to climate change: witness the 10:10 debate in the UK's parliament, the Maldives cabinet meeting under water, to name a few. According to Dan Vockins at 10:10, the campaign is poised to expand internationally starting with the Cop15 festivities. I've repeatedly pointed out on this blog that if any region in the world gets climate change, it's Asia. I've also argued that China needs to step up and lead, and present the world with a new economic model. I've spoken with various economists who agree. And as Bryony Worthington of Sandbag told me about developing countries carbon emissions, "they will probably do it anyway just to embarrass them [the West]... When China says it’s going to do something, it generally does it.”

The point I'm getting at: whether or not Cop15 is more than just talk and a "political agreement" is reached, might not matter anyway. People are ready and so are businesses. We are in luck even, that climate change negotiations were preceded by an economic crisis that has allowed us, as a society, to think differently about value and business practice.

In positivist terms: we are moving forward, fully and completely, with or without the Americans and an agreement at Cop15. Deep breath: now, doesn't that feel better?

Not that that doesn't mean that we shouldn't watch Cop15 like a pack of hungry wolves. I'll be reporting from there for, Simple Earth Media, and Intellecap Media. Watch this space!

*More fully: I believe in a combination of allowing "life" to show us a way but taking proactive steps to get us the rest of the way.

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