Sudden changes in plans for U.S. President Obama and Indian PM Singh will bring the leaders to the final days of the climate summit, when many think the chances for a deal are better.
Even when opposition to an agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen is galvanizing around the so-called "Climategate" e-mails, there has been a palpable increase in momentum for a deal to be reached by the end of the two-week summit, set to begin on Monday.
Joining his American counterpart and as many as eighty other other heads of government, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced he will now attend the crucial final days of the two-week COP-15 summit in Copenhagen, rather than attend the beginning as he previously planned.
As the world's fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, India is considered a critical element of the COP-15 talks, but the Indian Government has long taken the stance that the climate problem was one that should be dealt with by the nations that created it. More recently, however, India has distanced itself from the long-held position, agreeing to reduce its own carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by as much as twenty-five percent -- but not to signing any agreement binding it to do so.
With China recently announcing it would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 45 percent per unit of GDP compared with 2005 levels by 2020; and with Obama and Singh announcing they will be joining other heads of state for the final days of the talks, the chances of a deal being brokered seem to be increasing.
Prime Minister Singh's office made the announcement on Saturday shortly after the White House made the surprise announcement that President Obama would attend the end of the summit, making two trips to Europe--one to collect his Nobel Peace Prize and one to Copenhagen for the climate summit--as opposed to just one.
In a statement, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Obama decided to attend because "there is progress being made towards a meaningful Copenhagen accord." President Obama has previously indicated that he would not attend the last days of the talks unless his presence was required to land a deal.
And even conservative critics of President Obama believe his sudden move is a game-changer, reports theWashington Post. "It suggests that a 'deal' is already in the bag," said Kenneth P. Green of the American Enterprise Institute in an e-mail.
"And Obama's expecting that he'll get to bask in the glow of a new global agreement, flagrantly repudiating the position of the Bush administration in previous climate negotiations."
The United Nations Climate Change Conference begins Monday, December 7 in Copenhagen and will run through December 18.