Climate deal in Copenhagen

SUBHEAD: The Copenhagen deal came after a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, crushed expectations and renewed hope, posturing politicians and pleas for sanity.

By Albert Bates on 18 December 2009 in The Great Change -

Image above: "Leaders Useless" illustration from article on climate talks failure from October 2009. From

 [IB Publisher's Note: If you have hopes for the COP15 steering us in the right direction, remember the experts on ocean chemistry say that a 2ÂșC rise in sea temperature will kill off the tropical reefs, including those in Hawaii in decades.]  

Day 15:
This has been such an exhausting day, after such an exhausting two weeks, and it is now midnight so we thought of just going straight to bed and post something in the morning, but so many new readers have picked up this blog that we felt we could not disappoint. We will make a short post now and then elaborate more tomorrow.

There is a climate deal in Copenhagen. It came after a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, crushed expectations and renewed hope, posturing politicians and pleas for sanity. The newspaper headline this morning was “Kan Han?” [Can he do it?] over a picture of Obama. When President O made his opening address, expectations were very high that he would break the logjam and move the treaty to conclusion. Instead, he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Repeating the lame pledges that Hillary Clinton had outlined the day before, he was greeted by boos and jeers in the Klimaforum, the temporary home of many of the exiled NGOs, or at least those who had not been arrested or packed up and left in disgust. Why was he booed? Because the US offer was 3 to 4% reductions in GHG from 1990 levels by 2020, which everyone here knows is only 10% of what is needed to stabilize the climate at a 2 degree increase by mid-century. The EU has pledged a multilateral cut of 35 percent. China 40 percent.

The US and China combine to produce 40% of all greenhouse gases. Tallying all the pledges, we were still 4 gigatons per year short of the 2 degree (350 ppm) target, which meant we could see 3 degrees by mid-century, meaning 5 to 6 degrees in Africa. Evo Morales had called for changing the target to 1 degree. He pledged Bolivia would become carbon neutral like the Maldives is. When Obama arrived and still spoke about the lame US target as though it were something of value, people booed.

If the US were to rise to the EU pledge level, the target could be met and the treaty would have been signed.

The US economy would have had a shot in the arm and a whole new industry would be born. Without that pledge, however, nothing works, the talks are doomed, and the planet we call home may die. People here love Obama. They were deeply disappointed today. On Danish TV, the anchor asked their reporter standing in front of a backdrop of the White House why it was so hard for the US to understand the urgency. The reporter replied (and my Danish is weak so this is a paraphrase):

One in eight children (in the US) goes to bed hungry at night. People die in the thousands without health care. There are two million in prison, more than in China. People are losing their jobs, and their homes. To say that climate change takes on less importance when one is confronted with such challenges is realistic. Even though Denmark now has a right wing government (as we have seen from the police tactics, expulsion of NGOs from the climate talks, and suspension of civil rights this past week) all of those conditions which the reporter described for the United States are almost inconceivable here. How could a country as industrious as the US be so poor in social capital?

A pledge of carbon neutrality, coming from the US, would have changed everything in the climate summit. President Obama would have been the knight in shining armor. US honor would have been restored. Instead, the US delegation framed this as a blame game and China was the bad guy. In actuality, China pledged transparency from the moment Hillary Clinton finished the press conference on Thursday where the Bad China talking point emerged. The press reported, “Clinton said Washington would press the world to come up with a climate aid fund amounting to $100 billion a year by 2020, a move that was quickly followed by an offer from China to open its reporting on actions to reduce carbon emissions to international review.”

 When Obama said China was not being transparent and that was a deal-breaker, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with Obama and offered new transparency commitments. Obama said he was satisfied, only to inexplicably reverse that position later in the day. This kabuki played out two or three more times. Eventually it was obvious to most in the Bella Center that it was US and China bickering that was holding up the deal. By the end of the morning, the EU was circulating a draft text dubbed the "Copenhagen Accord." The 120 world leaders still present were given two hours to offer amendments. Here is how that draft text read:

"Recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperatures ought not to exceed 2 degrees, and on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, parties commit to a vigorous response through immediate and enhanced national action based on strengthened international cooperation." BROAD GOALS "Ambitious action to mitigate climate change is needed with developed countries taking the lead. Parties recognize the critical impact of climate change on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effect and stress the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support. “Deep cuts in global emissions are required."  

 "Annex One parties to the Convention commit to implement, individually or jointly, the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 as listed, yielding in aggregate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of "X" percent in 2020 compared to 1990 and "Y" percent in 2020 compared to 2005." [The use of “and” here instead of “or” is important. The US is the only country calculating its proposed reductions from 2005 (17%) instead of 1990 (3%). This requires them to calculate both],  

"Non Annex One parties to the Convention resolve to implement mitigation actions based on their specific national circumstances. Frequency of submissions of non Annex One parties will be every 2 years ... subject to their domestic auditing and assessment ... Clarification may, upon request, be provided by the party concerned at its discretion to respond to any question contained in a national communication ... Supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions shall be subject to international verification".  

 "Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding shall be provided by developed country parties. “Parties shall provide new and additional resources of $30 billion for 2010-12. “In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, the parties support the goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year to address the climate change needs of developing countries. “This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. “A Copenhagen Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity."  

 "The parties call for a review of this decision and implementation in 2016. “(Negotiations on a legal text would continue) with a view to adopting one or more legal instruments under the convention as soon as possible and no later than COP 16 (a meeting due in Mexico in November 2009)".

The EU had said earlier the world should aim to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, with rich nations cutting their emissions by 80 percent. Premier Wen told delegates that China's voluntary targets of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent would require "tremendous efforts." "We will honor our word with real action," Wen said. In stark contrast, the US was still committing to only a 3% cut, and then pointing fingers. To the NGO community, which is now barred from the COP-15 conference, 50 by '50 looked like a pretty good accord, even if more would be needed later.

Apparently some countries had problems with it, however, because over the late afternoon and evening hours, the text weakened significantly, Some objected to language about 2010 commitments and binding legal framework in COP-16. A clause was dropped that had called on developing countries to reduce emissions by 15-30 percent below "business as usual," that is, judged against the level had no action been taken.

A group of about 25 countries sought and won unanimous agreement on a two-page statement committing to the mobilization of $30 billion in the next three years to help poor countries cope with climate change and a scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020. Since this satisfied the victim nations, reparations were no longer on the table.

 Obama and Wen met twice, said they had taken a step forward in their talks and directed negotiators to keep working, but then fell into sniping at each other. Obama may eventually become known as "the man who killed Copenhagen," said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Phil Radford. Brazil's Lula da Silva said a miracle would be needed. "I am not sure if such an angel or wise man will come down to this plenary and put in our minds the intelligence that we lacked," Silva said. "I believe in God.

I believe in miracles." It is half past midnight in Denmark under a blanket of fresh snow and, while everyone was saying “It ain’t over until the black man sings,” President O and Air Force One are out over the Atlantic now. The draft text was abandoned in favor a 5-party deal between the US, China, South Africa, India and Brazil. That, and the adaptation and mitigation funding agreed to by all, was to have been the final outcome of Copenhagen, but hang on, it ain’t over. The EU has called delegates back into session and is determined to come out with something more substantive now that the US and China circus has left town. And tomorrow, we shall see just what that might be.

Out of Time!  
SUBHEAD: No New Treaty Likely at COP15 - We've Run Out of Time, Top UN Climate Negotiator Says.

[IB Publisher's Note: It's not as if COP15 failure was not anticipated. Check this article out written in October.] 

By Mathew McDermott on 21 October 2009 in - 

Image above: "Out of Time" by Sean Patrick Coon in From

While it's true, as Brian just pointed out, that the media have been taking us on a bit of a rollercoaster ride regarding the will there-will there not be a new treaty at the end of COP15 speculation, The Financial Times splashes some cold water on the idea that 'anything can still happen'. Here it is straight from the mouth of UN climate negotiator Yvo de Boer:
"A fully fledged new international treaty...I don't think that is going to happen. If you look at the limited amount of time remaining, it is clear."
Nations Must Set Out Clear Individual Targets
Mr. de Boer went on to say that what must be done at this point is to, "concentrate on the political imperatives that make it clear how countries are committed [to tackling climate change] and engaging in cutting emissions, and what cooperative mechanisms they need to put in place." Meaning, that industrialized countries need to set out clear individual national targets for 2020, which is what the big developing nations are waiting on to take part in any future international agreement, and all in the context of a long-term 2050 emission reduction target. Also, a deadline that would transfer those individual targets into a legally binding international treaty should also be established.

 Grassroots Political Pressure Needed Now, More Than Ever
Before anyone gets worked up, thinking this is a failure, or dashing the chances of success while there's still time to negotiate, I wouldn't go that far. In fact it's gives even more weight to grassroots action: More than ever pressure needs to be put on governments (wherever you happen to live) to enact strong national emissions targets, based in science not political expediency. And if some surprise twist, some unexpected breakthrough happens in the next few weeks, all the better.

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