With only a couple of days left in the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up with a pretty solid secret weapon: $100 billion per year by 2020 promised (maybe) to poor and at-risk countries to aid with adaptation to rising sea levels, increased drought and other severe effects of climate change. It came at just the right time.
The past few days had seen the protests in Copenhagen ratchet up and the chances of a major deal of any sort being reached ratchet down. On Monday, delegates of 130 poorer nations walked out of the conference in protest to what seemed like a lack of commitment on the part of the rich, developed nations. Even the New York Times editorial page seemed shaken to the point of confusion, with a on again-off again editorial on the benefits of preventing deforestation and the looming disaster of a failed climate summit.
Enter Hillary and her suitcase full of money. She stressed that the money, which will come from a mix of public and private sources, is only going to be available if India and China stop stalling and agree to real emissions targets very soon. "Without that accord, there won't be the kind of joint global action from all of the major economies we all want to see, and the effects in the developing world could be catastrophic," Clinton said at a press conference in Copenhagen.
No one seems to think that COP15 will result in a binding agreement, but a framework on which to set up that agreement by next year is a realistic goal. Well, at least now it is. Suddenly, after days of looking like the bad guy, China reiterated a willingness to establish an agreement, with the country's Climate Change Ambassador Yu Qingtai telling Reuters "I can assure you that the Chinese delegation came to Copenhagen with hope and have not given it up. Copenhagen is too important to fail."
The news isn't all good, of course -- the $100 billion is actually less than a goal set by the European Union, and of course the poor countries themselves wouldn't mind having a few more dollars to fight off complete catastrophe. But it's a start, and it seems to have kickstarted these last few unbelievably important days of COP15.