If, as Ed Miliband suggested yesterday, the UN's Copenhagen negotiations resemble an uniquely high stakes poker game, then we have now reached that four in the morning point where everyone looks tired and a bit the worse for wear, but still no one is yet willing to lay their cards on the table.
It is entirely understandable that attendees at yesterday's UN climate summit in New York would attempt to hail the meeting as a success, and there is no doubt that the Copenhagen negotiations look considerably healthier than they did 24 hours ago. But it was categorically not the breakthrough that many had hoped for.
China's commitment to set a carbon intensity target is hugely welcome and further underlines its willingness to act on climate change. But US chief negotiator Todd Stern is right to point out that the announcement's significance depends on the nature of the target.
China's carbon intensity is falling pretty rapidly anyway as an inevitable result of industrialisation. It could conceivably opt for a target that is simply in line with business as usual, which would be good for nothing. This scenario is pretty unlikely given the country's increased commitment to enhance energy efficiency and generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewables, but the threat remains and there is a risk that the failure of rich nations to set stringent targets of their own could prompt China to opt for a pretty unambitious goal.
It was also encouraging to see Japan and France reiterate their commitment to getting a deal finalised, and Japan's pledge to cut emissions 25 per cent by 2020 provides yet more evidence that deep cuts in emissions are feasible.
But Japan and the EU have had very little to do with the current road blocks. That dubious honour rests with the US, or more specifically the US Senate, and on that front there was little sign of progress. As Michael Tomasky blogged on the Guardian we even got the unprecedented sight of President Obama delivering a bad speech.
Despite Miliband's call for an end to the cards-close-to-the-chest brand of diplomacy that has consistently hampered the progress of talks to agree a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, it now looks inevitable that businesses will have to wait until the final hours of the Copenhagen meeting to get a sense of whether a meaningful deal will be reached.
None of the key players (which basically translates as the US, China and India) are willing to set out detailed proposals at this stage, which means that like all the best poker games we are all currently trapped in a state of near unbearable tension. China and India are justifiably trying to wring more concessions from rich nations before staking out their own positions and the US administration is completely hamstrung by the fact Congress will almost inevitably block any deal that commits the country to deep short term emission cuts.
The question now is whether each of these countries are secretly holding nothing more than a pair of twos in the form of unambitious and voluntary emissions targets, or are they preparing to lay down the Full House that will deliver a workable and effective deal?
Given the stake is the future of the planet we can only hope it is the later, while recognising that the odds are still in favour of something in between - perhaps a pair of sevens in the form of increased climate funding, expanded carbon trading and largely unsatisfactory emission targets.
Either way, we are not going to find out until dawn breaks in Copenhagen and all the players finally lay their cards on the table.
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