A New Tower of Babel

Although the failure was expected, frustration and disappointment are nonetheless inevitable. That's what happens when the preparations are sloppy and improvised, relying on a last-minute miracle; and no miracle happened there. A few general understandings were formulated in the dead of night, but the confusion remained, and we have nothing good to say about that.

The climate conference trails in its wake a sense of betrayal - the world is an orphan, with neither mother nor father, abandoned to its fate. The selfish comfort of each country won out over the duty of collective responsibility. All those who see themselves as citizens of the world are now worried citizens, and more so today than yesterday and the day before that. For 14 days, they deliberated and debated in Copenhagen; will we find out down the road that they were actually sitting shiva?

I came here "not to talk, but to act," U.S. President Barack Obama said toward the end of the conference, rolling up his sleeves and joining in the tussle. But even he, who speaks so well and so persuasively, left the conference only half-fulfilled. Who knows better than he does that if verifiable emission quotas are not set at the conference, then it is impossible to cover up the failure of the event.

Now we're being promised good news next month, when each state is to announce how much it pledges to contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. We should be so lucky. But it's hard to believe that what didn't happen under the international steamroller in Copenhagen will happen out of local, stress-free goodwill. And if not next month, then at the next conference, whose date and place are already set. Meanwhile, the thousands of participants are returning home, tails between their legs, for a gray, if not black, Christmas.

Copenhagen sought to build a new Tower of Babel, reaching to a clearer sky. But despite the advanced simultaneous translation setup, everyone spoke a different tongue, without listening to each other: south vs. north and vice versa, developing nations vs. developed states, China and the United States facing off across the barricades, island nations calling for rescue from the ocean depths and cursed Africa insisting on its right to shout out its backwardness. Divided interests confused their tongues until they were dispersed throughout the world; the tower fell, and the weak are the first to be buried by the rubble.

Israel fit in so well in this smoggy space, and who knows when and whether it will live up to its principles.

President Shimon Peres promised on behalf of the government that Israel will "do its best" to reduce local emissions 20 percent by 2020, while thee original forecast was "business as usual." It's a formula of alchemy - who could decipher it? It demands of us to find the philosopher's stone urgently. Soon we'll all know whether a new coal-burning power station will be built at Ashkelon and blow away all the president's promises.