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MM Lee: Copenhagen not a failure

May 4, 2010

Copenhagen not a failure, but political expediency makes it hard for countries to act, he says

By Jeremy Au Yong for The Straits Times

Read the full story in Monday’s edition of The Straits Times.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani (left) introducing Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the special question and answer session on ‘Climate Change in the 21st Century’ yesterday at the lnter-Pacific Bar Association conference. — ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

THE Copenhagen climate change summit last December was not a complete failure, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, although world leaders failed to agree on carbon emission targets.

His reason: ‘It brought minds to bear on the matter and everybody knows if you want me to do this, you got to commit yourself.’

But this lack of agreement to commit stems from one main stumbling block: the lack of political will of governments to tackle a long-term problem.

‘Governments stay in power not by promising to cut down growth rates, but by promising a better life…So the idea of taking tough action now as against putting it off to a future generation – anyway, they will be out of office – the result is, let’s put it off, we’ll talk about it,’ he told more than 1,000 delegates attending an international law conference.

MM Lee gave this frank assessment during a dialogue yesterday, the first day of a four-day conference of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association. Its theme was ‘Climate Change and Legal Practice’.

He had been asked by the session’s moderator, Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, what lessons could be learnt from the disappointing summit.#

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