The Copenhagen Disaccord: The Copenhagen Accord leaves room for doubt, disappointment… and little hope.
Special guest article from Paula Moreira*, Instituto de Pesquisa Amiental da Amazônia (IPAM). For further information, please contact Paula Moreira (paulamoreira[at]@ipam.org.br)
On 19 December, 2009, the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP-15) closed, leaving much doubt as to the validity of the “Copenhagen Accord”, and what the next steps should be for governments to minimize the effects of global warming. The result of COP-15 was merely a political declaration which Heads of State called the Copenhagen Accord.
There is no question that this accord contains several problems. It is not legally-binding and the manner in which the accord was reached was unfair. The Accord was not reached in the UN Plenary, or through its working groups officially established under the Bali Action Plan. (Decision 1/COP.13). Instead, this supposedly global accord was drawn up behind closed doors by just a few Heads of State, thus making it politically impossible to secure its approval in Plenary by all the countries. So, a political accord was reached by 25 countries, out of the total 192 members of the United Nations. Finally, the accord does not set targets for reduction of greenhouse gases for developed countries nor mitigation actions for developing countries.
Despite all of these criticisms, it is worth emphasizing that there were some positive aspects included in the documents which, although a mere political declaration, can be used to build a legitimate and legal binding agreement which must be drawn up in the coming months. Firstly, the Copenhagen Accord was proposed by a group of countries which, for the first time, included the United States. Participation of the US represents an important step in the right direction for climate change mitigation. The declaration also recognizes the scientific view that the rise in global temperature should be less than two degrees centigrade to avoid human interference with the climate.
“Declaration” of Copenhagen’s Highlights
With respect to financing, developed countries committed US$30 billion in additional resources during the period 2010-2012, specifically to help developing countries who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In the context of meaningful and transparent mitigation actions, the developed countries committed to jointly mobilizing US$100 billion per year up to 2020. These resources will be used to help to address the needs of developing countries. The funding would come from public, private, bilateral and multilateral sources including alternative sources of finance. The Copenhagen Green Climate Fund– part of the Copenhagen Accord—would be the financial entity of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change that will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries, including REDD+, adaptation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.
Detailed emissions plans are set out in two annexes to the Copenhagen Accord; one shows targets for the developed world and the other lays out voluntary actions in developing countries. However, given that China has refused to allow international verification of its efforts, the Declaration provides no possibility of monitoring voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions taken by developing countries. The requirements of the plans in the annexes have not been fulfilled with the corresponding numbers related to countries’ targets and actions.
The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the importance of reducing emissions caused by deforestation or forest degradation, and accepts the need to provide incentives to finance such actions using resources from the developed world.
Brazil’s potential leadership
Despite the disappointment and legal ambiguity concerning the effectiveness of the accord, Brazil should be commended for announcing a pledge of US$5 billion to help the most vulnerable countries in the world adapt to climate change. As highlighted by our Senate Marina Silva, by taking this symbolic gesture, developing countries are capable to embarrass rich countries and put them in an uncomfortable position, unblocking the negotiation. Furthermore, the target of reduction of emissions announced by Brazil in Copenhagen (36,1% – 38,9% of 2005 emission levels until 2020) became law though the Presidential Approval of the Climate Change National Policy on 29th December, 2009 showing the world that the country’s position tabled in Copenhagen was really a compromise.
The next steps
The President of the COP announced that the next climate change conference would be in Mexico, in November-December 2010. Nevertheless, many NGOs are urging countries to work for a strong agreement with political legitimacy in the next six months.
What is left, for the moment, is a mixture of feelings. A huge frustration of having spent a great deal of money and time to see this horror show of COP 15, not least the abysmal organization which left participants queuing for hours in the snow, without achieving a satisfactory outcome to the COP.
On the other side, the sole feeling of hope that Countries manage to transform the Copenhagen Declaration into a UNFCCC legal binding agreement in the next 6 months, with the fulfilled annexes of numbers of mitigation targets by developed nations and actions by developing countries, in particularly encouraged by the voluntary actions by developing countries such as the Brazilian example mentioned above.
Please, distinguished delegates, we call for action and not more disappointment in the next 6 months. Otherwise many of us, UNFCCC observers and climate campaigners, will be obliged to focus our work and energy on specific mitigation actions at regional and local level, giving up on the United Nations Climate Convention (UNFCCC) processes, in order to avoid more climate catastrophes that are already in place. We don’t have more time. We need action.
*Paula Franco Moreira is a lawyer with a Masters degree of International Socio-Environmental Law from the London School of Economics. She coordinates the area of inclusion and empowerment of indigenous peoples and traditional communities in the process of defining public policies on global climate change at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and is a representative of the Latin American and Caribbean civil society at the UN-REDD Programme’s Policy Board. Read more…