Expectations were high for a major agreement to address climate change when representatives of 190 nations met in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. But the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) concluded with more of a whimper than a historic bang. Many people had hopes that the Copenhagen conference would produce a stronger world pact to combat global warming to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Because no consensus was reached on how, or how much, to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, we may yet look back on COP15 as historic—a missed opportunity.
On its last day, the conference produced the Copenhagen Accord. This pact includes a commitment by wealthy countries to establish a $100 billion fund to assist developing countries in protecting against severe consequences of climate change such as droughts and floods. U.S. president Obama made the announcement, which was drafted by a 28-nation group including China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and several small island nations. Critics of the deal, which is short on specifics, asked where the money will come from. The accord commits nations to limiting a rise in world temperatures but without measures for achieving the goal. Developing nations like China and India have resisted calls to curb their emissions unless richer nations commit to steeper cuts. China did accept a proposal, however, that its CO2 emissions targets could be monitored by an international body.
Most tough decisions were put off until the UN conference scheduled for Mexico in 2010. Conflicting issues of national self-interest are proving very difficult for so large a group of nations to settle. With or without a global treaty, individual countries, communities, and entrepreneurs are taking steps to shift the global economy away from reliance on fossil fuels and toward “greener,” renewable energy sources. But energy experts say the impact of such voluntary efforts falls far short of what’s needed to keep global temperatures from continuing to rise.
- Copenhagen: Historic Deal to Combat Climate Change Growing Closer
This article is representative of how many press outlets viewed the Copenhagen conference, with expectations high for a historic agreement.
(Source: Daily Mirror, December 18, 2009)
- Climate Deal Won’t Cap Warming, Big Gaps
Reuters summarizes the outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
(Source: Reuters, December 14, 2009)
- Copenhagen Was More than the Accord
This official post-COP15 statement reacts to the widespread disappointment while pointing to some significant achievements in climate policy that are being overshadowed.
(Source: United Nations Climate Change Conference, December 23, 2009)
- Climate Reality: Voluntary Efforts Not Enough
This Associated Press article explores the varied attempts by countries, companies, and communities to address climate change in the absence of a binding global treaty.
(Source: ABC News, December 19, 2009)