The preparations for Copenhagen, and the role that the U.S. and other big names will play, are generating massive international press. Each news agency, it seems, is describing the story in a slightly different way. The following headlines are from online editions of a few international news sources on October 19 and 20 (mediocre headline translations and summaries courtesy of me):
New York Times :
“Hopes Fade for Comprehensive Climate Treaty” (note: title later changed to “As Time Runs Short for Global Climate Treaty, Nations May Settle for Interim Steps”)
Political issues will not be resolved before Copenhagen. The summit will lead to outlines and goals, but no effective plans. An EU meeting made progress on agreements to give aide to poor countries.
“Climate treaty now ‘more do-able’”
UK Climate Secretary Miliband plans to go “all out” at Copenhagen, and calls for political leaders to get involved. Many people call for President Obama to step up his commitment. EU meeting focused on raising, governing, and disbursing funds.
Le Monde :
“Global Warming: Europeans Remain Divided over Finances”
The 27 EU countries are far from speaking with one voice, and remain profoundly divided. No consensus at the EU meeting was reached on how to allocate aide to developing nations.
El País :
“The EU Does Not Reach an Agreement on Aide for Developing Countries to Combat Climate Change”
After not reaching any agreement at the recent EU meeting, it will be difficult to develop an international treaty at the UN summit in Copenhagen.
Someone with no prior knowledge of the subject of climate treaties would be baffled by these varying reports. Granted, each article is reporting on a slightly different aspect of the larger Copenhagen process. Nevertheless, the information and implications given by each vary considerably.
There are two interesting—and troubling—discrepancies here. The New York Times seems fairly certain that any treaty or agreement coming from Copenhagen in December won’t carry any weight, and El País seems to agree. BBC, on the other hand, supports Climate Secretary Miliband’s optimistic belief that significant progress in Copenhagen is possible. The BBC article also makes a point to press the U.S. government for increased commitment, a tactic not used by the other sources.
Although the sources disagree over the future in Copenhagen, they seem absolutely confused by the proceedings of the recent EU meeting. The American paper was under the impression that progress had been made, while the Spanish source was so discouraged by the meeting that they lost hope in progress in Copenhagen! Le Monde reports the rift a bit more mildly, but BBC only reports what was discussed, and not the outcome.
In America, we often complain of media bias within our own borders, but dealing with international media is far more daunting. For the most part, it cannot—and should not—be said that certain sources are better or worse than others. For a citizen trying to deal with the varying reports of international media, the only solution is simple: read them all.
[By the way, I recommend that for trusted reporting on Copenhagen you follow OnEarth editor Ben Jervey’s blog.]