Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Copenhagen Accord" sets stage for climate action - but not everyone is convinced


by Carmelo Amalfi
THE 15th meeting of the United Nations climate change conference has ended with an agreement to raise the finance needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in both developed and developing nations.
The "Copenhagen Accord" is supported by a majority of countries including the United States and China, the two biggest carbon polluters.
The agreement will establish a fighting fund expected to reach 30 billion US dollars over the next three years. Long-term finance by developed countries will collectively attract 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help developing countries fight global warming.
"We have sealed the deal," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released yesterday.
"This accord cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an essential beginning."
The Accord backs the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below two degrees Celcius will help take the sting out of the worst effects of climate change.
It specifies that industrialised countries will commit to implement economy-wide emissions targets from 2020.
These will be submitted to the UN before January 31, 2010.
Countries will communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years.
Mitigation actions seeking international support will be recorded in a registry with details of relevant technology, finance and capacity building support from industrialised nations.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said the COP15 was a success despite the rollercoaster ride in negotiations over the past two weeks.
"The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal," he said. "But clearly, ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to hold the world to 2C."
Leaders plan to review the accord by 2015 and include long-term goals to limit the
global average temperature rise to 1.5C, which is the cap many African nations had argued for.
De Boer said heads of state and government intend to act promptly on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries.
A "Copenhagen Green Climate Fund" will be established to support immediate action on climate change. Governments also plan to establish a new technology mechanism to accelerate the development and transfer of technology.
In total, 119 world leaders attended the meeting, the biggest gathering of heads of
state and government in the history of the UN.
"Climate change is the permanent leadership challenge of our time," Ki-moon said.
"I therefore urge world leaders to remain engaged. We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action."
But de Boer said the agreement was at this stage, "a letter of intent", not a precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. In other words, COP15 failed to set in stone a legally binding accord that locked both rich and poor countries.
"So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable," he said.
The next UN climate change conference will be held next year in Mexico City, preceded by a two-week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, between May 31 and June 11.
The European Parliament delegation to the COP15 also released a statement describing the Accord as a huge disappointment.
"The outcome and the procedure show an urgent need to reform the UN working method," European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek aid.
"Copenhagen will only be a first step. We must learn the lessons of how to improve the negotiating process. There are some positive elements to the agreement, but the EU should continue to put pressure on the rest of the world to reach a more ambitious agreement at a later stage."
Delegation head Jo Leinen said the agreement postponed climate change protection to a later date.
"The document lacks a long-term vision for 2050, nor have short-term targets for 2020 been laid down in the final document. The present commitments of industrialized countries will by no means meet the CO2 reduction requirements stated by the scientific panel of the United Nations."
MEPs said the worst aspect of the "Copenhagen Accord" is it did not not hold nations legally accountable for their actions.
"The US has failed to adapt its reduction targets to global needs. China has refused to sign a treaty with international obligations," he said.
Vice-chair Karl-Heinz Florenz added: "It is a slap in the face for the world. There has been a huge lack of trust during these negotiations.
"Some developing countries have been blocking without contributing in a positive manner to the text. For further negotiations it will be crucial to overcome this for the further negotiations."
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he was satisfied a result had finally be achieved.
"Now nations will need to sign on, and if they do so, they will support what has been agreed to (in the Copenhagen Accord). This will have effect immediately."

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