Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen: The Farce that was, and is no more

December 19, 2009


Copenhagen deadlock wrapped up as emissions deal

Ben Webster, Sam Coates and Philippe Naughton in Copenhagen
The Times
December 19, 2009

The United Nations climate change summit ended last night without setting any emission reduction targets.

President Obama forged a non-binding agreement with his counterparts in China, India, Brazil and South Africa but it was unclear whether all 192 countries would accept the compromise text.

Mr Obama said that a “fundamental deadlock in perspectives” had overshadowed the negotiations. He described the deal as “meaningful” but admitted that it would not be enough to prevent global warming. “We have much further to go,” he said.

Despite two years of negotiations, the key sticking points — emissions cuts, monitoring of emissions and the legal nature of the deal — all re-emerged in the final hours

The agreement merely repeated an aspiration to keep the global temperature increase to 2C without explaining how that would be achieved. The final text also failed to mention any deadline for turning it into a binding treaty.

It was a humiliation for Gordon Brown, who has spent longer working on it than any other world leader. He admitted the conference had only taken the first step towards tackling climate change and said that he hoped that progress would be made at a conference in Germany next summer or one in Mexico at the end of the year.

The one positive outcome for developing countries was a commitment by rich countries to provide $30 billion of climate aid over the next three years and $100 billion a year from 2020.

The US announced by far the lowest pledge. It will contribute $3.6 billion between 2010 and 2012, while Japan will give $11 billion and the European Union $10.6 billion.

A deadline of February 1 is expected to be set for all countries to publish emissions targets, although there was no sign last night that any country would move beyond existing offers.

In a statement, released at 10.30pm, the White House described the agreement as meaningful.

“No country is entirely satisfied with each element but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress,” it said.

It had been a day of tension, elation and snubs. US negotiators were taken aback that the Chinese leader sent his deputy to the main negotiations. Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister, was said to have taken offence at President Obama’s speech to delegates not to agree on “empty words on a page”. World leaders began leaving the summit before anything was signed.

The Kenyan delegation expressed horror that President Chávez of Venezuela had been given the opportunity to grandstand from the podium denouncing “the Yankee empire”.

Drafts of the “Copenhagen accord” were leaked every couple of hours, each one sacrificing another commitment in the desperate scramble to achieve a compromise. And despite two years of negotiations, the key sticking points — emissions cuts, monitoring of emissions and the legal nature of the deal — all re-emerged in the final hours.

Commenting on the draft Copenhagen Accord, the Greenpeace climate campaigner Joss Garman said tonight: "This latest draft is so weak as to be meaningless. It’s more like a G8 communiqué than the legally binding agreement we need.

"It doesn’t even include a timeline to give it legal standing or an explicit temperature target. It’s hard to imagine our leaders will try to present this document to the world and keep a straight face."

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