The biggest news coming out of the Barcelona climate talks  being held this week is the re-framing of a successful climate change treaty as being one that is “politically binding” as opposed to “legally binding.”
With all the long hours I’ve been putting into to covering these climate talks, I’m sure my wife is wishing our marriage was a politically binding agreement, as opposed to a legal one.
This double-speak-aganza started earlier this week with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen telling Reuters that,  “it is a challenge for every single industrialised country in the world to deal with the climate change issue and that’s why we are working very strongly to reach a politically binding agreement in Copenhagen…”
President Rasmussen said he was optimistic that a politically binding deal could be reached in Copenhagen. No kidding he’s optimistic. Who wouldn’t sign on the dotted line to an agreement that has absolutely no ramifications if the terms are not met?
Politicians invented the art of making promises they can’t keep and now we’re expected to bank on their promise to deal with the most pressing environmental challenge the world has ever seen. Call me cynical, but I think I’ll be stocking up on sand bags and sunscreen tomorrow.
The spin continued with, of all people, the head of United Nation’s climate treaty process, Yvo de Boer, saying,  “”It is absolutely clear that Copenhagen must deliver a strong political agreement and nail down the essentials.”
Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon echoed de Boer. saying “several key countries were not ready to sign up to binding targets and that the best the world could hope for from the summit would be ‘political commitments.’”
All this “politically binding” talk is great if you’re a government official who is looking for a way to pretend that the last two years of climate treaty talks have amounted to something more than an impressive sounding document that has no teeth.
“Politically binding” is even better if you’re a politician looking for a way to appear like you’re committed to resolving the issue of climate change, without having to actually commit to doing anything you cannot weasel your way out of later. Watch more countries jump on this do-nothing train in short order.
Maybe while they’re at it they could change highway speed laws from legally to politically binding. It would save me a ton in speeding tickets.