11/06/2009 07:42 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Would Frank Luntz Do with the Copenhagen Climate Treaty?

When I'm trying to unravel public relations spin, I frequently find myself asking WWFLD (What Would Frank Luntz Do)?

As you'll recall Frank Luntz is a chief Republican spin-doctor famous for his memo on climate change.

We have seen a lot of spindoctoring at the Barcelona climate talks underway this week in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate treaty summit to be held in mid-December.

As I've pointed out in previous posts, the most egregious spin has been the attempts by politicians to re-frame a successful outcome in Copenhagen as being a "politically binding" deal as opposed to a "legally binding" one.

"Politically binding" is great Luntz-speak. The term looks impressive, but is completely meaningless.

So WWFLD?My guess is that his communications memo would look something like this:

MEMO: Copenhagen Agreement “legally binding” language recommendation

Situational Analysis:

There is heavy pressure on the United States and other countries like the EU, Denmark, Canada and Australia to deliver a “legally binding” agreement at the upcoming UNFCCC summit in Copenhagen, Denmark scheduled for mid-December.

Many developed nations are not in a position to deliver a legally binding deal due to various reasons. At the same time there is great pressure being put on politicians by civil society, grassroots organizations and environmental groups for there to be a successful outcome at the Copenhagen meeting.

In order to consolidate the opposing goals of a “legally binding” and the need for the public to perceive a successful outcome in Copenhagen, I would recommend reframing the definition of what is considered a success. To do this, political leaders must shift the perception of success as being a “politically binding deal as a opposed to a “legally binding” one.

Key Messages:

We are committed to seeing a successful outcome in Copenhagen that is politically binding.

We are working towards a deal with a strong commitment by all nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.