Initial analysis of the Copenhagen climate talks

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Copenhagen was a unique opportunity to turn the world’s course away from climate disaster, towards a safe future for all of us on this small planet. Massive global public mobilization demanded it. But world leaders negotiated for their national interests, instead of safeguarding our shared destiny.

In the closing hours of negotiations, world leaders drew up the Copenhagen Accord. It grabbed headlines, but offered no lifelines and so may end up on the sidelines. Negotiations must get straight back on track. All countries need to get back round the table and deliver what science – and people worldwide – are demanding: a fair, ambitious and binding deal in 2010.

 

What's in the Copenhagen Accord?

The Copenhagen Accord – a three-page political declaration - reveals where there is currently some space for international agreement, and where the huge gaps in global vision remain.

Climate threat: high
Hollow commitment to halt global warming.
The Accord makes a weak commitment to keep the rise in average temperature below 2oC – recognizing the scientific consensus around the threshold for catastrophic and irreversible climate change – but sets no targets for emissions cuts by 2020 or 2050. It simply calls for global emissions to peak ‘as soon as possible’ – an empty strategy in the face of emergency. The Accord calls for a review in 2015, when it should consider strengthening the global temperature ceiling to 1.5oC – but by then it would be too late to achieve.

Rich-country emission cuts dangerously off course. In the face of this gaping hole, the Accord’s approach to securing stronger cuts from developed countries by 2020 is pathetic. With no global targets as a guide, and no criteria for calculating national fair shares, it calls for each country to submit its pledged cuts to an international list by the end of January 2010, but for information purposes only – nothing binding.

Measure, report and verify. Independent checks to ensure that countries are meeting their responsibilities to cut emissions are essential – and agreeing on this was a big step made in Bali. The Copenhagen Accord strengthened the will to do so. It calls for processes to measure, report and verify rich-country emissions cuts and finance.

 

Where is the finance?
Fast-start finance: yes – but don’t fast-finish.
The Accord commits developed countries to providing new and additional resources approaching $30bn for the period 2010–2012. This is welcome and will help meet the backlog of urgent adaptation demands and mitigation opportunities. But based on pledges made so far, the total falls short by $2bn per year; most of Japan’s funding is in the form of loans, much of the EU money has simply been re-pledged, and little has been committed over and above the 0.7 per cent aid target promised since 1972. Further, there is no commitment to fund needs from 2014 to 2019.

Long-term adaptation funds proposed – but no clear sources. The call to mobilize $100bn for adaptation and mitigation by 2020 is an important step; it is only half of the minimum needed, and creates no specific obligations for countries, but it finally puts an initial number on the table. Yet there is no mention of how to raise fair shares, how funds will be divided between adaptation and mitigation, or how much will be predictable and public finance, rather than private finance through carbon markets.

The risk of aid-raiding and empty promises. The Accord’s commitment that rich-country financing be subject to measurement, reporting and verification is important because it would help end the financial ‘hide-and-seek’ of current pledges. At the same time, the Accord leaves certain funding loopholes open. It makes no clear statement that climate finance will be raised separately and additionally to rich-countries’ existing aid commitments of 0.7 per cent of national income. Without that, funds risk being raised by diverting future spending away from essential services in poor countries – taking money to build flood defences out of budgets to build schools and hospitals.

New financial mechanism – but how will it be governed? The Accord establishes the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund – intended as one of the financial mechanisms under the UN Convention, for financing mitigation, reducing emissions from deforestation, adaptation, capacity-building, and technology development and transfer. It is unclear how this mechanism is intended to relate to the mechanisms under negotiation in the formal tracks, but its governance must help deliver climate finance in a more transparent and democratic way – a commitment not established in the text.

 

Little protection for the poorest
No vision for adaptation.
The Accord does little beyond stating that adaptation is a challenge, that it will need finance, and that the most vulnerable developing countries should be prioritized in accessing this finance. All true. But it makes no proposals about the level of funding needed for adaptation finance, and promises no certain source of funds. It makes no mention of the need to cover unavoidable loss and damage – such as helping communities rebuild their homes and livelihoods after hurricanes and floods, or cope with slow-onset damage such as losing freshwater supplies as glaciers melt.