Did Copenhagen Make History?

CopenhagenExpectations 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.

Related Links

  • 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)

One Comment

  1. Vikas says:

    Some thoughts on the nototiagiensThe Copenhagen process had 2 main deficiencies, which conducted all the misunderstandings.1.A conference of such a High level should be properly prepared. That means that a great amount of preliminary work should be done: to clearify the scientific basis of the question; to co-ordinate the project of the decision with all sides. I feel that such a work was not a success that time.2.A conference of such a High level should work out mostly main strategic questions – the main mechanisms of maintaining our Planet clean and safe. All the other questions that are connected to this issue could be easily solved because of the worked out mechanism could give answers to any connected questions. As to COP 15 results I could find no key mechanisms – only decisions on private questions based on different approaches.That is why it is more important now not to criticize the COP 15 Accord, but to make our “work on mistakes”, correct all the defects and make up for the deficiencies.As I consider the issue, there are 2 simple approaches that flew away from the negotiator’s attention.1.It is not fair to limit the greenhouse gas emission by choosing a percentage of reduction according to a base year. The base year emissions in different countries widely vary. Even if a certain country would choose a high percentage of gas reduction, it could happen that this certain country will have the right to emit more CO than another country, which even didn’t declare any gas reduction.Why not use well known and widely spread in the world practice establishing emission allowances (quotas) that depend on the population and GDP (per capita emission, per GDP dollar emission). In that case all the countries would have equal rights. If a country would have less emissions, it could sale it on a “carbon market”. If a country exceeded the emission allowances (quotas), it should buy “carbon credits” on a “carbon market” or pay for it.2.To preserve forests there is also a simple and well known approach. It is based on concepts of the “natural” rent and the assimilative potential of a territory. It is known about the amount that a certain forest area can absorb. A country with a certain forest area can have the corresponding additional “carbon credits”. If the forest is cut off, the country would have to pay in accordance to the reduced area. The tax fee in such a case could be much higher than “carbon credits” for the same area.If such basic mechanism would appear, all the following from them questions could be easily decided. Especially questions concerning financing. Every country would know how much it could get and how much it could loose. There should be an accurate mechanism and accurate criteria of distributing the finances.As for the decisions that were not legally obligatory (not only for COP 15 Accord, but for Kyoto protocol and IPCC as well).The UN is the only international organization, which is aimed to make vital decisions for all the planet (Earth). If some countries would not join the mankind’s efforts to survive, how could we all live in one World? It would be impossible. From the other hand the UN should transcend its efforts to meet all the country’s demands.And of course if everyone agrees that a certain list of countries can join some actions voluntarily – it’s OK too.