Disappointing End to Climate Talks

Demands for Climate Justice
Demands for Climate Justice
Ben Powless
The disappointing conclusion of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen reinforced how little rich countries, which have caused climate change, are willing to do to ameliorate its impacts and limit warming. Essentially the United States cut a deal with a handful of nations and then shoved this deal down the rest of the world's throat. Even during President Obama's press conference, he admitted that it wasn't legally binding and that it wasn't enough to limit warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (we should note that over 100 countries are calling to limit warming to under 1.5 degrees).

What was actually agreed to in Copenhagen? The United States and 25 other countries agreed behind closed doors to a political agreement that they titled the "Copenhagen Accord." This was then presented to the other 169 countries in a UN session to adopt. Discussions went on through Friday night. Finally Saturday morning, the UN did not officially adopt the Accord, but simply took note of it, which means that it has no real standing. The silver lining is that the UN did agree to exend the mandate for negotiations for another year to reach a politcal binding agreement and work out many of the details, so our work is far from over.

The Accord is very weak and inadequate because: 

  • it doesn't include an emission reduction target;
  • no peaking year for emissions is indicated;
  • keeping warming to under 2 degrees is only obliquely referenced;
  • there is only a promise to mobilize funds; where they will come from is not clear;
  • the amount of financing is inadequate.

What does this mean for carbon markets and offsetting schemes?

The Accord simply mentions that carbon markets have a role to play to enhance cost-effectiveness of mitigation actions. This means that nothing is set in stone with regards to reforms of the CDM and the architecture of offsetting mechanisms. This provides us an opportunity over the next year to continue to hit hard on the design of new mechanisms, so that we can limit the damage that they can do.