The Cpenhagen Accord – what now?

In October we reported that leaders from more than 500 companies from all around the world had joined together to warn heads of government that business would suffer unless a credible deal on climate change could be reached in Copenhagen in December. Well the conference arrived with a fanfare of promises and expectations and fizzled out in recrimination and claims that the failure to reach a legally binding agreement was “someone elses fault.”

So what, if anything, WAS agreed?

The outcome of the summit is the Copenhagen Accord. The delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) agreed to “take note of” the accord. In summary the accord :

* Endorses the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol
* Underlines that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and emphasises a “strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”
* To prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, recognises “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius”, in a context of sustainable development, to combat climate change.
* Recognises “the critical impacts of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effects” and stresses “the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support”
* Recognises that “deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science” (IPCC AR4) and agrees cooperation in peaking (stopping from rising) global and national greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and that “a low-emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development”
* States that “enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to… reduc[e] vulnerability and build.. resilience in developing countries, especially in those that are particularly vulnerable, especially least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and Africa” and agrees that “developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries”
* About mitigation agrees that developed countries (Annex I Parties) would “commit to economy-wide emissions targets for 2020” to be submitted by 31 January 2010 and agrees that these Parties to the Kyoto Protocol would strengthen their existing targets. Delivery of reductions and finance by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified (MRV) in acordance with COP guidelines.
* Agrees that developing nations (non-Annex I Parties) would “implement mitigation actions” to slow growth in their carbon emissions, submitting these by 31 January 2010. LDS and SIDS may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of (international) support.
* Agrees that developing countries would report those actions once every two years via the U.N. climate change secretariat, subjected to their domestic MRV. NAMAs seeking international support will be subject to international MRV
* Recognises “the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests”, and the need to establish a mechanism (including REDD-plus) to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries to help achieve this
* Developing countries, specially these with low-emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low-emission pathway
* States that “scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding as well as improved access shall be provided to developing countries… to enable and support enhanced action”
* Agrees that developed countries would raise funds of $30 billion from 2010-2012 of new and additional resources
* Agrees a “goal” for the world to raise $100 billion per year by 2020, from “a wide variety of sources”, to help developing countries cut carbon emissions (mitigation). New multilateral funding for adaptation will be delivered, with a governance structure.
* Establishes a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, as an operating entity of the financial mechanism, “to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation”. To this end, creates a High Level Panel
* Establishes a Technology Mechanism “to accelerate technology development and transfer…guided by a country-driven approach”
* Calls for “an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015… This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal”, for example to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. Source Wikipedia

There seems to be a lot of “recognising” problems rather than agreeing actions or making firm committments. The European Union labeled the conference and accord a “disaster”.
South Africa, despite being one of the five draftees, described the accord as “not acceptable”.

But what do the commentators say?

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP
sharply criticised world leaders over the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit.
“World leaders have failed us, producing nothing but an empty accord which is not fair, not ambitious and not legally binding. Unless real action is urgently taken, we are on course for a global temperature rise well above 2 degrees, putting the future of millions at risk. So we need to keep up the pressure on politicians to agree a swift deadline for a further agreement, based on fairness and containing ambitious, binding targets alongside significant additional funding for poorer countries. The industrialised countries, as those most responsible for the climate crisis, need to do much more. The EU, for example, should show real leadership by offering the unconditional 40 per cent domestic emission cuts by 2020 which the science demands. We must change climate discourse to emphasise social benefits of cutting carbon. More than anything, we need to change the discourse around acting to prevent climate chaos, by highlighting the huge number of benefits which action will bring – the millions of new jobs in energy efficiency and renewables, the warmer homes and better public transport. Politicians shouldn’t be afraid of this agenda – they should be actively promoting it.”

Patrick Harvie MSP, who attended the conference, said:
“This was a time when world leaders simply had to lead, and they have failed us just as they have failed generations to come. As Copenhagen went on, the commitments got watered down until there was nothing left, and the all-party talks got picked apart until a small cabal of the biggest polluters sat down to agree no action. Their empty pledges include no emission targets, no new money, and leave no realistic chance of averting climate chaos. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama told everyone how important a real deal would be, and then they failed to deliver. They should be ashamed of this disgraceful betrayal of the world’s hopes, not spinning furiously and pretending they’ve delivered anything. The UK Government have long been two-faced on climate change, attempting to co-opt the NGOs while planning airport expansion and new coal plants. Now, in a desperate move to save face, the Prime Minister is left backing a deal that’s not even a deal. He should have stood up for the vulnerable and walked out of this cynical carve-up. These talks have been an abject failure, not a deal worth signing.”

Oxfam
” … expressed outrage at the ‘climate deal’ unveiled by world leaders in Copenhagen. Following two years of intense negotiations, leaders have failed to slash emissions by the amount scientists say are needed, or table the money necessary to help the poorest countries tackle climate change. Gordon Brown, who has for months stood alongside poor nations on the issue of climate cash, left the summit signed-up to a deal that would endanger aid budgets and provide only half of what is needed to help poor countries cope with climate change. The failure of governments to commit to a legally binding treaty beyond Copenhagen was an additional blow. No date was set to come back to the negotiating table in 2010, sparking concerns about the human cost of delay. The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 150,000 people die each year because of climate change.” Phil Bloomer, Oxfam Campaigns Director said ” Never before has so much expectation, by so many people, been squandered by so few. Like a Christmas present from your second aunt – this deal was well wrapped but deeply disappointing.”

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“The US appears to be more interested in saving face than saving the planet. They are now using strong-arm tactics to bully the developing world into backing a plan that completely undermines the existing UN process and does little to diminish the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. This is completely unacceptable. This summit has been a complete failure – the climate accord should be sent to the recycling bin. The developed world, which has done most to create this crisis, must face up to its global responsibilites with a strong and fair agreement within months. Time is running out – we need bold action not more short-sighted, short-term self-interest.”

Greenpeace believe that:
“This ‘deal‘ is beyond bad. It contains no legally binding targets and no indication of when or how they will come about. There is not even a declaration that the world will aim to keep global temperature rises below 2C°. Instead, leaders merely recognise the science behind that vital threshold, as if that were enough to prevent us crossing it. The only part of this deal that anyone sane came close to welcoming was the $100bn global climate fund, but it’s now apparent that even this is largely made up of existing budgets, with no indication of how new money will be raised and distributed so that poorer countries can go green and adapt to climate change. I know our politicians feel they have to smile and claim success; they feel that’s the only way to keep this train on the tracks. But we’ve passed that point – we need to go back to first principles now. We have to admit to ourselves the scale of the problem and recognise that at its core this carbon crisis is, in fact, a political crisis. Until politicians recognise that, they’re kidding themselves, and, more than that, they’re kidding us too. “

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