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Strong bullying the vulnerable is not the way to a positive outcome in Copenhagen

As the snow falls here in Copenhagen, so do the hopes of millions around the world.

We appear to be reaching a low point in the COP. As world leaders arrive and ministerial meetings start, the texts they are working on are a complete mess, filled with [brackets] and completely unresolved on key issues of targets and financing, let alone how to bring together the two streams in the process.

But any faith in leaders, that they will somehow rescue a positive conclusion from this mess, is misplaced. A positive outcome requires a positive attitude towards negotiation. All we have seen so far is a tragic return to the old order of the strong bullying the weak. We are seeing arm twisting of small island states by Kevin Rudd and Gordon Brown. Mr Rudd is particularly pressuring the Maldives and Kiribati, I am told, attempting to buy them off with promises of direct funding. French Guyana is already said to be weakening under similar pressure from Mr Sarkozy.

This tactic of picking off individual countries, buying them off with individually tailored offers, has a long history in these kinds of negotiations. It worked brilliantly at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and it has worked for Japan for years in the International Whaling Commission.

Make no mistake. That is what is going on here.

This is not a question of the rich world trying to salvage something that is "better than nothing". It is a clear attempt to buy off critics so they can successfully hoodwink their domestic constituents into believing they have the problem in hand.

Each time you hear Prime Minister Rudd, President Obama or Chancellor Merkel talk about their plans to limit warming to 2C with a 450 ppm target, remember that the proposals they have on the table will breach 650 ppm and push the world to a catastrophic 4C warming or more. One of the many highly credible analyses that reaches this conclusion is here.

Penny Wong's speech to the plenary on behalf of the Umbrella Group (nations including Australia, the USA, Canada, Japan and New Zealand) was received by commentators around the world as underwhelming and hypocritical. Her promise of 50% global emissions cuts by 2050 is well understood to be completely at odds with science and thus unacceptable. Once again, the Umbrella Group, with Australia at the chair, is undermining the potential for a reasonable global outcome.

The NGO lock out for the final days of the conference is yet another example of the bullying of the powerless fighters for change by the powerful proponents of the status quo.

These few days will go down in history - a history that is yet to be written. Each of us has to make a decision - which side of history do we want to be on?

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