Was Cop15 a Cop Out?

Was Cop15 a Cop Out?

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed Copenhagen a success on five out of six measures but most observers united in damning the meeting a grave disappointment. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praised the outcome, but some developing nations have attacked the agreement. The Guardian newspaper chronicles what was agreed and what was left out.

ABC News, Australia report:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has praised the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit, but some developing nations have attacked the agreement and are refusing to support it.

The statement world leaders agreed upon is not legally binding and has already been rejected by some of the countries involved in the United Nations process.

Under the accord, all countries – including China – would have to submit written plans for curbs in carbon dioxide emissions by January 2010.

All countries have also signed up for a plan to provide developing nations with $US100 billion a year in aid by 2020.

But even the leaders of the world’s biggest countries admit that the provisions in the final document will not protect the planet from dangerous changes in global temperatures.

Mr Rudd says there is still a lot of work to be done to arrive at a more robust agreement that binds the international community to a legally enforceable framework

He hopes to achieve that at the Mexico climate change conference next year.

But small island nations including Tuvalu, as well as most of the South American countries, have already rejected the accord.

Tuvalu representative Ian Fry, whose country is one of the most at risk from global warming, said the agreement amounted to Biblical betrayal.

“It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future,” he said to applause in the chamber.

“Our future is not for sale. I regret to inform you that Tuvalu cannot accept this document.”

Nevertheless, Mr Rudd says the agreement represents progress and recalled seven times in the final stretch when the 194-nation summit could have broken up in disarray.

“There was a grave risk that these negotiations would collapse altogether and we would have had a triumph of inaction over action,” he said.

“Instead we had a result that underpins action. That represents substantial progress.”

He said the summit provided the greatest consensus yet on the need to stop the planet from heating up 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

“The test that I’ve applied is what was before and what was after,” he said of agreements on climate change.

The negotiations were hampered by key disputes, including rich nations’ demands that emerging economies verify that they are carrying out their pledges on the climate.

“The attitude taken by various countries in these negotiations has been particularly hardline,” Mr Rudd said, declining to name specific nations.

Mr Rudd, who has closely aligned himself with President Barack Obama, praised the US leader for helping break impasses in the negotiations.

“[At key moments] the President of the United States walks in, rolls up his sleeves and says, ‘Okay, let’s have a go on this,’ and you make some progress. That produced a magical result,” M Rudd said.

Source: www.abc.net.au


Allegra Stratton in Copenhagen for guardian.co.uk (19 December 2009):

The UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen broke up last night with Gordon Brown hailing the night a success on five out of six measures but most observers united in damning the meeting a grave disappointment.

Last night, the talks wrapped up with countries agreeing that rather than using Copenhagen to announce how they would curb their carbon emissions, instead over the the “next few weeks” they would publish their targets and another meeting would be convened to discuss the legality of the measures agreed.

Europe’s pledge to move from 20% to 30% — trumpeted as likely all week — failed to materialise suggesting that the European leaders believed the outline agreement on offer not sufficient to merit the higher commitment.

“It is not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, but it’s an important first step … No country is entirely satisfied with each element,” said a US official.

The deal said little on the major sticking points of the last few days — whether or not the US or China and other heavy polluters were serious about curbing their emissions.

In a press conference held at 11pm immediately after talks had broken up, Brown himself said the agreement was just a “vital first step” and accepted that there was a lot more work to do to before it could become a legally binding agreement. In questions afterwards he declined to call it an “historic” conference.

He said that one of the outcomes of the day’s negotiations was that Angela Merkel would be announcing shortly a conference in Germany to deal with the issue of monitoring emissions targets. This body would be tasked with developing the most effective means of monitoring whether a nation is cutting its emissions without intruding on its sovereignty – a major stumbling block in this week’s negotiations.

Brown said: “This is the first step we are taking towards a green and low carbon future for the world, steps we are taking together. But like all first steps, the steps are difficult.”

“I know what we really need is a legally binding treaty as quickly as possible.”

However Brown brushed off a suggestion that Europe hadn’t gone from 20% to 30% in its carbon emission target because of the paucity of other agreements on the table.

Instead he said it was the first time so many countries had come together to agree a 2C target by 2050.

NGOs gathered in Copenhagen were severely disappointed. Senior climate change advocacy officer at Christian Aid, Nelson Muffuh said: “Already 300,000 people die each year because of the impact of climate change, most of them in the developing world. The lack of ambition shown by rich countries in Copenhagen means that number will grow.”

Kate Horner from Friends of the Earth said: “This is the United Nations and the nations here are not united on this secret back-room declaration. The US has lied to the world when they called it a deal and they lied to over a hundred countries when they said would listen to their needs. This toothless declaration, being spun by the US as an historic success, reflects contempt for the multi-lateral process and we expect more from our Nobel prize winning President.”

Tim Jones, climate policy officer at the World Development Movement said: “This summit has been in complete disarray from start to finish, culminating in a shameful and monumental failure that has condemned millions of people around the world to untold suffering.

Source: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/copenhagen


“What was agreed at Copenhagen – and what was left out

Jonathan Watts in The Guardian (19 December 2009):

National leaders and sleep-deprived negotiators thrashed out a text late last night that could determine the balance of power in the world and possibly the future of our species. The list below gives a breakdown of the key points:


“The increase in global temperature should be below two degrees.”

This will disappoint the 100-plus nations who wanted a lower maximum of 1.5C, including many small island states who fear that even at this level their homes may be submerged.

Peak date for carbon emissions

“We should co-operate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, recognising that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries …” This vague phrase is a disappointment to those who want nations to set a date for emissions to fall, but will please developing countries who want to put the economy first.

Emissions cuts

“Parties commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 as listed in appendix 1 before 1 February 2010.”

This phrase commits developed nations to start work almost immediately on reaching their mid-term targets. For the US, this is a weak 14-17% reduction on 2005 levels; for the EU, a still-to-be-determined goal of 20-30% on 1990 levels; for Japan, 25% and Russia 15-25% on 1990 levels. The accord makes no mention of 2050 targets, which dropped out of the text over the course of the day.


“Substantial finance to prevent deforestation; adaptation, technology development and transfer and capacity.”

This is crucial because more than 15% of emissions are attributed to the clearing of forests. Conservation groups are concerned that this phrase lacks safeguards.


“The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources amounting to $30bn for 2010-12 … Developed countries set a goal of mobilising jointly $100bn a year by 2020 to address needs of developing countries.”

This is the cash that oils the deal. The first section is a quick financial injection from rich nations to support developing countries’ efforts. Longer term, a far larger sum of money will be committed to a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. But the agreement leaves open the questions of where the money will come from, and how it will be used.

Key elements of earlier drafts dropped during yesterday’s negotiations:

An attempt to replace Kyoto

“Affirming our firm resolve to adopt one or more legal instruments …”

This preamble, killed off during the day, was the biggest obstacle for negotiators. It left open the question of whether to continue a twin-track process that maintains Kyoto, or whether to adopt a single agreement. Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada are desperate to move to a one-track approach, but developing nations refused to kill off the protocol.

Deadline for a treaty

“… as soon as possible and no later than COP16 …”

This appeared in the morning draft and disappeared during the day; it set a December 2010 date for the conclusion of a legally binding treaty. The final text drops this date, but small print suggests it will still be next year.

Source: www.guardian.co.uk

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