Emily Pitts writes:

As the lights begin to fade on 2009, thought turns to the New Year and what hope we might have for progress on climate change in 2010. And sound the bells; it looks like hopes should be pretty high. Global commitments to climate change (that were due to take place at the Copenhagen talks in December) are now taking place early next year in Mexico, and the UK’s much-publicised 10:10 campaign that invites individuals and organisations to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% over the course of the year, officially kicks off in January. (The Futures Company has signed up).

However, there’s still a fair way to go before we can be confident of 2010’s ability to announce the dawn of a new era. Look at where the most influential global powers are on the issue, for example with Obama’s well-publicised absence from the Copenhagen talks next month. [Update 26/11: No sooner had we posted this than Obama decided to go to Copenhagen after all].  There is no doubt that he is concerned about climate change and takes it seriously. It is also equally clear that the difficulties he faces domestically from within the Senate are serious, and have led him to feel that the possibility of reaching global accord this year is unrealistic.

In spite of this, there is something undeniably depressing about a protocol to replace Kyoto being delayed. Even alone, the very symbolism of the American president’s absence from Copenhagen packs a powerful punch in the gut of the climate change movement.

This tardiness to act on climate change is increasingly at odds with public opinion. 2009 Global Monitor data shows that globally, 67% of consumers agree that climate change is the biggest single problem facing the world today – even after the financial crisis. Take also, the proliferation of grass-roots movements that are galvanising the public’s appetite for change and progress, from 10:10, to Do the Green Thing, to the Campaign against Climate Change, as well as a host of cultural interventions (the RSA’s Arts and Ecology blog is the best guide).

The chasm between the positions of politicians and the public on climate change is perilous. There are risks here for politicians as well, if they get too far out of step with what the public is both saying and doing. Even in the US, carbon emissions are now falling. Closing the gap and delivering meaningful action from the top as well as the bottom could see 2010 jubilant in realising its potential for being the year that finally delivers on climate change.

The picture is from the greenzer blog, and is used with thanks.

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