Yesterday the Danish government announced that 65 heads of government have confirmed that they would attend the conference, with no refusals to date. Others to confirm include Chancellor Merkel (Germany); Presidents Sarkozy (France), Hatoyama (Japan), Lula (Brazil) and Yudhoyono (Indonesia); and Prime Ministers Rudd (Australia), Reinfeldt (Sweden, as Presidency of the EU), Zapatero (Spain) and Stoltenberg (Norway); the chances are tilting in favour of President Obama attending if he believes he can help to secure a substantive deal.
But the most important part of Brown's letter is the argument that there should be no lessening of ambition on the content of a climate deal.
Over the next four weeks leaders must together work towards an ambitious and comprehensive agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that will put the world on a trajectory towards a maximum global average temperature increase of 2°C. The Copenhagen Agreement must allow for immediate implementation of its provisions, while also including a clear commitment to convert the agreement into an internationally legally binding treaty as soon as possible.
The agreement must include all the key elements of the action plan reached at Bali two years ago, including economy-wide emissions reduction targets for developed countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries which will contribute to reducing global emissions, a substantial climate finance package to assist developing countries both to adapt to and mitigate climate change, and a strong set of arrangements for measurement, reporting and verification and pre-2020 review.
The recent acknowledgement that the summit would not conclude a legally-binding Treaty confirmed what had long been obvious to observers of the talks. The danger is surely that the content of a political deal is allowed to slip far short of what is needed.
There are two tests here.
One is about process, where Brown endorses the goal recently set out by the Danish Prime minister that Copenhagen must still be the deal, in all but its final legal form, so that countries should and must agree the full set of commitments which will subsequently be embodied in the legal treaty.
The other is about content, that the goal should that the Copenhagen agreement must put the world on a trajectory towards a maximum global average temperature increase of 2C. Here, Brown argues that this depends on meeting each of the objectives set out by the UN at Bali in 2007. These were:
* specific economy-wide emissions reduction targets for developed countries
* ‘nationally appropriate mitigation actions’ (policies and measures of various kinds) by developing countries to slow the growth of their emissions and contribute to global emissions reduction
* a substantial climate finance package to assist developing countries both adapt to and mitigate climate change
* a strong set of arrangements for measurement, reporting and verification
* and a clear commitment to review progress and if necessary adjust it, well before 2020 (probably around 2015)
The mood inside the preparatory talks was captured by John Harris' Guardian feature at the weekend tailing Ed Miliband, in which Miliband argued that a political deal "without numbers" would be a stark failure.