COPENHAGEN—It's a cloudy, somewhat snowy day. The metro stop at the Bella Center has been shut down because of protests. Outside, the police presence is massive, with officers cordoning off streets.
The Copenhagen climate talks are entering their last phase, yet negotiators here have clearly made less progress toward reaching an agreement on global greenhouse gas emissions than they would have hoped. Some world leaders are already arriving; dozens more are expected tomorrow and Friday for the final day.
Yesterday, negotiations stretched late into the night. China, India, and other developing countries continue to accuse the United States, the European Union, and others of excluding them from negotiations and not being "transparent" about their intentions. "You can't just put forward some text from the sky," China's lead negotiator, Su Wei, charged this morning, referring to a new draft text being circulated.
This issue of "transparency," vague as it may sound, is now a major theme. On one level, China and India are accusing Western countries of shady tactics, of trying to keep them on the sidelines of discussions. At the same time, the United States is calling out China for so far not being willing to agree to the idea of letting inspectors into the country to verify that China's leaders are, in fact, fulfilling their pledges to curb the growth of their country's emissions.
For the Obama administration, this commitment from China would mean a lot, and it would do a lot politically.
In Copenhagen earlier today, Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, said that getting climate legislation through the Senate will rest in large part on reassuring anxious senators that China is also tackling its emissions. Many senators are worried that manufacturing workers will "lose their jobs to China and India" if developing countries don't curb their emissions.
But convincing those senators of China's intentions will take more than a good faith pledge from China, he said. As part of a new treaty, Kerry and many others want countries to have to show that they are actually reducing emissions. In other words, they want some system of inspection and verification—and consequences for those who fail to follow through.
"We have it in nuclear arms deterrence agreements," he said. "We have it in trade agreements."
Getting this included in whatever comes out of Copenhagen, Kerry said, will give the Senate climate bill a major boost. Kerry told attendees that the Senate will tackle a climate bill "early next spring."
And in a veiled swipe at Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the top ranking Republican on the Senate Environment Committee who has repeatedly claimed that the climate bill is dead in the Senate, Kerry told the Copenhagen crowd, "Those who say we will not pass something are wrong."