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Copenhagen really matters. Guardian front page sets scene well

Posted on 7 December 2009 | 10:12am

A surprisingly impactful front page of The Guardian today, given that the headline is a non-screaming quote from their own editorial and the only picture an unrelated head and shoulders shot of Helen Mirren advertising Christmas wrapping paper. 

Back in my day (writes a middle-aged old fart) front pages were hidden away till as late as possible – even from colleagues – because sales depended on impact on the news-stands the next morning.

In the 24 hour TV age, no sooner is the front page drawn up than it is being pinged over to the broadcasters in the hope of a bit of free marketing. The Guardian deserves plenty today for its front page editorial on the Copenhagen Summit, which is being published simultaneously in newspapers in 45 countries.

It was seemingly The Guardian’s idea and in the toing and froing over the text, which went on for more than a month, they will have had at least some idea of what it is going to be like at the Summit. Only an idea though. Newspapers merely have to express a view. What the leaders and delegates at Copenhagen have to do is reach decisions which will then have to be translated into legislative and other changes in a host of different political systems and environments.

Throw in the recent mini-surge in voices suddenly (and irresponsibly in the case of most) questioning the science, questioning even the question – is climate change man-made? – and you have a very difficult event for the politicians to handle.

The Guardian rightly points out that we are all going to have to face up to change in how we lead our lives. Seeing that is easy. Making it happen in all the countries of the world is the hard bit. Really hard.

Inside the paper is an article by Gordon Brown, also reflecting on the scale of the challenge, and the neccessity of the leaders to rise to it. Britain has performed an important leadership role in the build-up to Copenhagen, just as John Prescott and his team did pre-Kyoto. GB, and everyone else, has been cheered by Barack Obama’s decision to be there when the talks get down to the nitty-gritty. It is another reminder of the enormous responsibility the US President carries.

‘Fourteen days to seal history’s judgement on this generation’ is the Guardian quote in the headline. Ok, a bit of hyperbole maybe. But not much.

This matters.

  • Mal Kelly

    why the Xmas wrapping paper? So we can all buy each other things we don’t need, wrapped in packaging it shouldn’t have, and now down at the altar of consumerism .. well represented in the Guardian adverts.

  • Charlie Wills

    There were times reading your book when I felt real sympathy for Blair, Clinton etc at the enormous decisions they had to take. really feel for Obama at the moment. even the other leaders give the impression it all rests on him

  • Jenny Marshall

    Add one to the Guardian sales for today. Read your blog before leaving for work. Normally get the Times on way in. Got Guardian instead. Nice idea. But yes, if it takes a month to agree an editorial, what chance a world agreement in two weeks. Happy Christmas???

  • Leo

    Gordon Brown in his article in the Guardian today cites the IPCC in his assertion that the evidence for man-made global warming is clear. The trouble is that he, at least by association, has form in the distortion of facts for political ends (WMD anyone?) and the IPCC has form in exaggeration and distortion (read how it used the infamous and now discredited hockey stick graph). So who do you trust when trying to get to the bottom of the climate change debate? Particularly as the language is so shrill or aggressive – Brown’s use of the term ‘flat-earthers’ is unhelpful and (again) unstatesmanlike. We’re in a sorry state when a thing becomes less not more credible because it’s endorsed by our leaders but I suspect that’s where we are.

  • Chaspatterson


    Massive fan of you and your blog, but there is no way that impactful is a word! – if it is, it shouldn’t be!

  • olli issakainen

    I recently watched a TV programme called MOT which is our Panorama. The programme made a strong case for the fact that the science behind the climate change is questionable.

  • Passing Right Winger

    You lefties made a big mistake in the last 5 years by linking measures to deal with climate change with higher taxes and general sacrifice. With trust in politicians dropping, it was never going to work having politicians saying that to be green you had to be happy to pay more in tax and not go on holiday to Spain – certainly not when they were doing junkets abroad and getting internal flights to go to fundraisers. You lefties might never bounce back from this.

  • Paul Locke

    I wonder what other science the self-described “sceptics” don’t accept.

    Do they believe that the earth goes round the sun – or the other way round?

    Do they believe that micro-organisms exist – or that diseases are a manifestation of divine wrath?

    Did they believe in the hole in the ozone layer twenty years ago? I don’t recall a denialist movement back then undermining the scientific consensus. Ah but then, stopping the destruction of the ozone layer didn’t entail any belt-tightening by the Mail- and Telegraph-reading middle class, did it? No-one was asked to think again
    about air travel and multiple car ownership. And of course, Mad Mel was writing with more humility for the Observer.

    In an article about environmental degradation, Carl Sagan once asked rhetorically: what are conservatives conserving?


    Keep up the blogging. Alastair. In the past couple of weeks I’ve rediscovered just why I vote Labour. I think Cameron and Co are not going to have things all their own way.

  • Colin Lemm

    Yesterday I received an unsolicited e-mail from a recruitment company fronting for a major American health care provider. They are looking for people to sign up members of the public for private health care.Along with the marked increase in TV and newspaper advertising by UK providers of private health care indicates to me that they are anticipating an incoming Tory government. Despite polls showing that the public largely thinks that the NHS is safe in Tory hands the indications are that these companies perceive that there is a great deal of anxiety to the contrary and are hoping to cash in on this.

  • Elliott Burton

    Have you been sexing-up dossiers on climate change as well??!