Support Marketplace

A climate of survival vs. self-interest

Participants of the United Nations Climate Change Conference walk past a globe at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: As Stephen and I were just saying, negotiations over global warming are going to continue for a good long while. And a lot of the concerns that various countries came to this meeting with, they're going to have the sames ones in the future.

Marketplace's Sam Eaton has more now from Copenhagen.


Eaton: In order to really understand just how hard these negotiations have been, it may be more useful to look at what is, rather than what could be. Right now, the reality is coal and oil are still what make the global economy spin. And getting us all off of it in order to keep the planet from cooking means different things to different countries.

Rachmat Witoelar: In terms of the developing countries, it is not self-interest, it is survival.

That's Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia's lead climate negotiator.

Witoelar: Survival meaning that one country tries to survive. The other tries to maintain its lifestyle, which I beg to suggest that the lifestyle maybe should be a bit lower. It's only lifestyle, not survival.

But for the elected leaders of the rich world, that's not exactly a message you want to bring home to your people.

Mark Kenber is an economist with the London-based Climate Group.

Kenber: If you're a country that is wealthy, has grown accustomed to a fairly high-carbon lifestyle, you think well, what's the hurry?

Especially when fossil fuels remain so cheap and easy. That's why rapidly growing China wants to keep using them. The last thing it wants is mass unemployment and dashed hopes for achieving an American lifestyle.

But, perhaps ironically, it was Thom Yorke, the lead singer of the famed rock group, Radiohead, who put his finger right on the real meaning of the climate summit. He snuck into the conference with a press pass.

Thom Yorke: I'm coming here, 'cause I want to see something positive in this, because there has to be something positive in this.

Because he asks himself every time he kisses his kids goodnight, what kind of world we're leaving them.

In Copenhagen, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...