WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord

Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA (external - login to view). As well as countries' negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental "treaty circumvention" (external - login to view) and deals between nations.

But intelligence gathering was not just one way. On 19 June 2009, the state department sent a cable detailing a "spear phishing" attack on the office of the US climate change envoy (external - login to view), Todd Stern, while talks with China on emissions took place in Beijing. Five people received emails, personalised to look as though they came from the National Journal (external - login to view). An attached file contained malicious code that would give complete control of the recipient's computer to a hacker. While the attack was unsuccessful, the department's cyber threat analysis division noted: "It is probable intrusion attempts such as this will persist."

The Beijing talks failed to lead to a global deal at Copenhagen. The US, the world's biggest historical polluter and long isolated as a climate pariah, now had something to cling to. The Copenhagen accord (external - login to view), hammered out in the dying hours but not adopted into the UN process, offered to solve many of the US's problems.

The accord turns the UN's top-down, unanimous approach upside down, with each nation choosing palatable targets for greenhouse gas cuts. It presents a far easier way to bind in China and other rapidly growing countries than the UN process. But the accord cannot guarantee the global greenhouse gas cuts needed to avoid dangerous warming. Furthermore, it threatens to circumvent the UN's negotiations on extending the Kyoto protocol, in which rich nations have binding obligations.

WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord | Environment | The Guardian (external - login to view)