Yet there need be and should be no impasse in Copenhagen. The negotiators should simply do the obvious and ethical thing: consider and discuss the needs and requests of the most climate-change vulnerable populations. Put the neediest first.
In fact, this is the clearly stated requirement under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Convention specifically requires that small island states be protected from adverse impacts of dangerous interference with the climate system, and specifically requires Annex 1 nations (the developed countries) to provide all manner of assistance (also specifically listed) for the protection of the small island states.
The 2001 Third IPCC Assessment (reinforced with additional evidence in the 2007 Fourth IPCC Assessment) said that small island states are exceptionally and extremely vulnerable to many inevitable adverse impacts of global warming, climate disruption and ocean acidification. The committed global temperature increases already constitute the grossest of crimes against humanity for small island states and the other most climate change vulnerable nations (whose populations number in the billions of our brethren).
Tuvalu wants a legally binding agreement that might save their small island nation in the Pacific. Other small island states and poor African countries (indeed, close to 130 nations) are supporting Tuvalu's call for a "Copenhagen Protocol" — complementary to the Kyoto Protocol but, it seems, for those major developing countries not bound by the Kyoto Protocol (you know, the ones George W. Bush kept bitching about). Tuvalu wants a CO2 target of 350 ppm, and a global temperature increase target of 1.5ºC. (We're almost at 400 ppm now and with the warming already in the pipe, pretty close to 1.5 already, too.)
Folks, this is an easy one. Oh, so easy — if you negotiators have any heart and any regard for your children's future, that is.
Tuvalu is going to disappear — literally — if we don't do something urgent to halt greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Human decency, compassion and plain old common sense would dictate that we move to help the country that's in the most trouble, first. It's what we do in our communities, right? We help out those in trouble. We give, we make sacrifices, so that the situation of those worst off is somewhat alleviated.
What is happening to Tuvalu will, before too very long, happen to us. They're among the first to be impacted, but they're by no means going to be the last. It is only a matter of luck and timing. This is NOT a time for selfishness or greediness, obstinacy or pretending that the atmosphere respects national borders. It certainly is NOT a time to put our economies ahead of our humanity.
(Note to China and India: Dudes, relax. It's climate disruption that's going to "constrain your economies." Racing to achieve zero carbon emissions, making the transition to renewable energy and saving ourselves from climate chaos is going to fuel your economies, pardon the pun. You've got to get that through your heads!)
This is a crisis of heart and of imagination. I've said it before, and I'll say it again — only now, it's playing out in real life at the Copenhagen climate negotiations:
COMPASSION WILL BE WHAT SAVES US.