15 NOVEMBER 2009


Copenhagen has been good to the President of Brazil. Granting the Olympics to Rio was a personal triumph to Lula. He would wish to reciprocate. To visit again. As soon as possible. Say next month, early December when the Danish capital will be in full swing. He can swing too. Samba, actually. Did you say Climate Change? Brazil invented the Amazon Rain Forest. Joyful Brazilians can show interest in anything and dance at the same time.

Lula would like to return the favour. Gratitude is another Brazilian trait. He is calling upon other heads of state to join. Otherwise, no real decisions would be taken. A delegate would communicate, moderate, advocate. Only the top leader would have the last word. The more of them present, the more that is accomplished.

Usually, heads of state draw on one another. They watch who is in and on and decide whether to come or not. In an earlier Copenhagen Conference, at the same Bella Centre fifteen years ago, there were only 24 leaders initially -- until three heavyweights decided to go as the umbrella was changed from "Sustainable Development" to "The Fight Against Poverty." Even the richest of them would wish to be seen as part of that struggle. Climate Change has become less vague; it needs better packaging. Despite Al Gore and Queen Latifah, most people would still like to hear about poverty rather than the Ozone layer. Yet, perhaps big names could produce a big impact. Perhaps leaders acting responsibly would make up for U.N. men who are communicating (very) badly.

Japan, Kyoto's host, will certainly attend. A different leadership team, but some consistencies in policy. The key three are the difficult ones: China, India and the U.S. Nothing much could be done with China; it plays its cards too close to its chest to know for sure who will join and what position it will take. It is a wide chess game -- Copenhagen is just one peg, not the whole field. India most likely will go along with Brasil, their partner in the Campaign for a Permanent seat at the Security Council. But attendance at the highest level does not guarantee obstacles will mot be raised on a questionable framework. The biggest question revolves around the biggest player: the President of the United States.

Copenhagen has not been good to President Obama. Nor to Michelle. Nor to the Chicago team that made a last minute pitch for the Olympics. Climate Change is a growing priority among Hollywood liberals but not exactly a popular demand. There are still many questions to be answered. The role of the private sector in a market free society, the role of the public sector in a financial crisis, the extent to which a Commander-in-Chief would mobilize his environmentalist troops when thousands of military combat troops are spread from Iraq to Afghanistan. There is also a logistical consideration: timing and location. Around the same time, give or take a day or two, Mr. Obama will be in nearby Oslo to receive the Nobel Prize. Where would you rather be: bathing in the singular glory of a historic award, or sharing an inconclusive gathering with the constantly agitated Nicholas Sarkozy and the ever-irritating Silvio Berlusconi?

Ah. So sorry, we forgot -- like everyone else -- about the distinguished Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General and official sponsor of UN/FCCC, to which another C -- with his keen effort -- would be added. He is handicapped -- to say the least -- by a weak yet pompous team, a very poor communications strategy, and very selfish set of member states. No doubt, photos displaying him with world leaders will be dutifully circulated on the third floor of the Secretariat building in New York -- that is, if there is still anyone left there by mid-December. The distant press area in Bella Centre will be duly loaded with communiques detailing his every move. We will be so happy if any of it is picked up by the mainstream media. If not, at least he would have, on the sidelines, proudly witnessed the progress accomplished by son-in-law Chatterjee, that formidable civil servant who made it in a record four years time from a P-4 UNICEF assignment in Africa to a P-5 in (or around) Baghdad to a D-1 posting along the Harbour of Copenhagen.

These days the U.N. desperately needs a success. Let's hope for visible progress in Copenhagen by the largest number of world leaders, for Lula's sake!