Global General

Copenhagen 'deal' leaves much to do

By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-21 08:11
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COPENHAGEN: Frustration prevailed among many Chinese members of non-government environmental organizations as prepared to return home from the United Nations climate change conference.

COP15, as it is formally known, closed with the Copenhagen Accord that has no legal-binding measures, no specific emission cuts targets nor specifics surround the new international funding mechanisms to help the small island and most vulnerable countries cope with rising of the sea and of the temperatures.

Yang Fuqiang, director of global climate change solutions at WWF, said that the accord, though not up to most people's expectations, still has merit as it does commit the developed countries to raise $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 and $100 billion between 2010 and 2020 to assist the most vulnerable countries tackle global warming.

However, several NGO representatives had tears in their eyes when they tried to decipher what went awry from their high expectation of a "fair, ambitious and legally-binding" outcome.

China made the utmost effort to prepare for a good outcome of the conference, said Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace China.

China announced its concrete national action plan to pursue a low-carbon economy 11 days before COP15 convened.

Wu Changhua, Greater China Director of the Climate Group, told China Daily that tremendous difficulties lie ahead of China fulfilling its pledge to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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Wu said China still does not have strong enough administrative capacity to restructure its economy so growth would be less dependent on high emissions and energy consumption.

But China has made its pledge. As Premier Wen Jiabao said while addressing the COP15, "We will honor our word with real action We have not attached any condition to the target, nor have we linked it to the target of any other country."

"We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action," said the UN's top climate official, Yvo de Boer. "However, we need to be clear that it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable," he added.

Yang said that would include a Long-term Cooperative Action plan and an amended Kyoto Protocol. A political declaration would also be needed to summarize the goals and actions set in the two documents.

Both under the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the two documents will ensure collective mitigation actions and financial mechanism to slow down the global warming, she said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that if countries do not take stringent measures to reduce emissions of (GHG) and carbon dioxide, sea levels will rise even faster, submerging several small island nations and even flooding major metropolises such New York and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, people will suffer from even more frequent and severe floods, droughts, and pests as well as epidemics. The very survival of human society will be at risk.

"Standing on its own a political declaration like that doesn't do much other than paper over the fact that that governments have failed to keep the promises they made to each other ." said Steve Sawyer, Secretary-general Of The Global Wind Energy Council.

COP15 gathered the most - some 119 - of the heads of state and governments since the Earth Summit convened in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 1992.

Their participation could have created an "effective process" to seal a deal or a political declaration, based on the two documents within the UN framework, Yang said.

There was this "huge opportunity, but I don't think the good momentum was grasped," Yang said.

Nations have been negotiating for two years, following the adoption of the Bali Road Map in 2007.

"Standing on its own a political declaration like (Copenhagen) doesn't do much other than paper over the fact that that governments have failed to keep the promises they made to each other ." said Steve Sawyer, Secretary-general Of The Global Wind Energy Council.

The deviation especially from the Kyoto Protocol seemed to play into the hands of the US, as the US is no longer a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol. During his press conference limited to only a small number of Western reporters, President Obama showed his impatience with these previous UN documents. He set his eyes on a new protocol; he meant to pursue it and he got an accord that many countries acknowledge but with serious reservations.

The nations' negotiators will continue to work on the two draft documents and they will convene early next year to continue the process of COP15.

The UN's deBoer said the Copenhagen Agreement left a lot of work for the nations to do before COP16 opens Nov 29, 1010 in Mexico City.

The next planned UN climate meeting is a regular half-yearly session in Bonn starting May 31, Reuters reported.

Despite the setback, the NGO representatives said that they would continue to work with Chinese policymakers and grassroots people to build up a green economy.

As Wen Jiabao said: "Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."

Highlights and shortfalls

The Copenhagen Agreement recognized that "deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius."

For long-term financial support, a hot topic in debates during the past two weeks, the accord said: "In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries."

The agreement also noted the developed countries have the commitment "to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching $30 billion for the period of 2010-2012.

The developed countries are asked "to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy wide emissions targets for 2020," but the exact figure is left out. The developed countries need to submit their emission targets by Jan 1, 2010.