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Copenhagen Climate Change - report

Agreement leaves key questions unanswered

by Rosslyn Hyams

Article published on the 2009-12-19 Latest update 2009-12-26 15:59 TU

Delegates embrace as the COP15 "takes note of the Copenhagen accord(Photo: Reuters)

Delegates embrace as the COP15 "takes note of the Copenhagen accord
(Photo: Reuters)

Billed as Hopenhagen by some two weeks ago, the UN Climate Change Coference has ended in confusion and rancour. While some leaders insist that the final, non-binding accord can be a basis for future work, important questions remain unanswered and NGOs are insensed.

The conference centre was strangely quiet on Saturday after the overnight departure of most heads of state and government.

But the echo of US President Barack Obama’s Saturday night announcement could still be heard.

What he announced is now known as the "Copenhagen Accord".

The conference "takes note" of that Accord, but that's all. In its heading, the declaration will list all the countries which associate themselves with the deal.

That’s expected to be nearly all the 193 represented, actually.

But about eight countries, including Bolivia, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tuvalu and Venezuela, have spoken out strongly against the deal. Even the US admits it is not the "robust" document sought two weeks ago, when the conference was labelled Hopenhagen by some.

Hopes have certainly been dashed any way you look at it.

The Copenhagen Accord announced contains references to essential issues that have been on the climate change table. They include mitigation projects, transparency in verifying carbon emission cuts in the light of targets promised here and setting up a climate change fund.

While this outcome - a non-binding, political accord - has disappointed many, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon declared all is not lost.

"It is a beginning," he said.

The European parliament delegation agreed that it’s a start but was disappointed about a "weak" agreement.

The "outcome and procedure show an urgent need to reform the UN working method," it said.

In plenary session on Saturday morning, a number of countries said they hope the accord will be beefed up.

"It’s too early to say whether we’ve succeeded or failed," said Grenada, which has campaigned hard as a member of the Association of Small Island States (Aosis). "But we lost many things on the way, but we gained some as well. We lost our vigorous committment to aim for a temperature-rise cap of 1.5 °C. We were not able to secure legally binding targets to carbon reductions."

"Yes, expectations had been high and it’s urgent to act, but, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," one central African environment minister told RFI.

Taking stock of positive developments over the past three days when the negotiations moved into a higher gear, one French expert involved in the talks noted that it’s rare, if not unheard of in recent history, for the US to commit to financing over a period of time, as against annually renewable or lump sums.

A follow-up meeting is due at the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn in June 2010.

Later Saturday afternoon UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer is scheduled to speak to the press, many of whom have focused on the disappointment and anger due to the inability of the countries to reach agreement on binding targets and binding financial committments.

The outcome is unprecedented, according to an expert involved in the negotiations who considers the only solution is complusory solidarity.

While climate change affects both rich and poor countries, most developing countries do not have the means to combat the devastating and foreseeable effects of climate on their own.

As we have seen at the conference, there is a certain will to help out. But what has been offered so far, falls short of the estimated 200 billion dollars (139 billion euros) required up to 2050. Moreover, the Copenhagen Conference was vague when it came to the question of where that help will come from and how it will be administered.

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