I obviously haven’t posted anything about the Copenhagen Conference for a few days. Not for lack of desire, but for a lack of time. So before more time slips away and I lose track of what happened in Copenhagen, here are where things stand, as best as I can determine.
The Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009 wasn’t an abject failure, as too many people continue to profess. Did the Conference result in the most aggressive actions by every country that the most optimistic could have hoped for? Of course not. Anybody who thought that would happen set themselves up for severe disappointment. Is it the final step in climate action internationally? Again, of course it isn’t. What I think happened is a solid step in the general right direction was taken. The results were actually better than the total gridlock that appeared 1-3 days days prior to the end led observers to believe they would be. The agent who made the recorded progress available? The Obama administration.
Instead of coming in and dictating to the the rest of the countries what would get done and how to do it, the Obama administration negotiated acceptable terms to the parties that, it can be argued, matter most in the climate change arena: the heaviest polluters historically and those expected to pollute heavily in the near future. More specifically, in addition to all the hard work that high ranking officials did, up to and including Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, it was the President himself that was able to help solidify a working accord. To put this in perspective again, remember that just 11 months ago, we had a criminal administration denying, for all intents and purposes, that climate change was even occurring, let alone being willing to work with other nations to agree to solve the biggest problem that everybody knows exists: GHG pollution. This also happened despite the behind-the-scenes meetings that a handful of other heads-of-state were engaged in without President Obama, despite the administrations demonstrated attempts to bring them together. How that embarrassing development pans out will have to be seen.
So – with no more background – what is the Copenhagen Accord?
Basically, under the agreed upon approach, each nation commits and registers to abide by its domestic climate commitments, whether those are in the form of laws and regulations or multi-year development plans. Which nations? Good question. They are the seventeen countries of the Major Economies Forum– which together account for some 90% of global emissions. While all 190+ nations should be included in whatever legal document eventually gets drawn up (in Mexico City in 2010, site of the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16), or thereafter), I think real progress was made in Copenhagen to get 90% of polluters on board for a political agreement.
Signatories to the Accord acknowledge:
- Climate change is important and affirm their desire to do something about it, according to responsibility and means.
- Adaptation action is important, especially for least developed countries. (This is where the U.S.’ proposal to provide $3 Billion by 2012 and a share of $100 Billion annually by 2020 comes in. I don’t think anybody predicted that proposal would have been made prior to Copenhagen.)
- Annex I parties (as defined by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol: most developed nations) will reduce emissions, which will be measured, reported and verified (MRV) according to guidelines (which weren’t developed yet), while non-Annex I parties emissions reductions will be domestically MRVed and internationally consulted and analyzed. (This was the big sticking point between the U.S. and China. China wants to remain in the non-Annex I group while the U.S. wants more MRV actions employed.)
- Positive incentives to stimulate financial resources from developed countries to help reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation will be implemented.
- Markets will be used to achieve cost-effective mitigation actions. (Not my favorite approach.)
- A collective commitment from developed countries of ~$30 billion for the period 2010-2012, “balanced between adaptation and mitigation,” with adaptation funding being prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries is present.
- Commitment to a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 from sources both public and private for developing countries.
- Mid-term evaluation of Accord implementation. By 2015, an assessment could be made against the leading science of the time.
Moving forward, it isn’t clear which entity should be responsible for future agreements. Should it be the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with over 190 members, under which potential solutions can be wholesale vetoed by any single member? Or should it be the MEF, with only 17 or so members, which operates quite differently than the UNFCCC does? The latter approach has its advantages. It also does not include most nations who are being affected by climate change the most today. The pragmatist in me can appreciate the relative ease of agreeing with only 16 other members rather than 190 other members. As long as real, verifiable and aggressive climate actions are indeed taken by MEF members, I can see myself leaning in that direction. There has to be some kind of interaction within the U.N., however. Many frameworks are set up already to bring countries together to monitor and act on issues that affect the globe.
In contrast to the health insurance legislation inside the U.S. Senate and which the Executive Office seems to have engineered, I see some differences in how the Obama administration and potentially the Senate are addressing our climate and energy crises. I will state again: the Copenhagen Accord is not what I wanted to see come out of the Conference. I will also state again that our proposed (not enacted!) 4% reduction of 1990-base CO2 emissions does not go nearly far enough. That is not an acceptable solution to me or thousands of other climate activists. But I see more action on climate on a shorter time horizon than I do on health care. More corporations in the U.S. are demanding action on climate than they are on health care. Substantial opposition still exists and there will be another large set of battles that will have to be fought. I certainly hope Obama and his staff are actually interested in meaningful change on this issue. I will pay attention to any reports talking about negotiations between the administration and dirty energy heavyweights. If that happens, climate change legislation will look as pathetic as health insurance legislation.
My 18Dec2009 summary is here.
My 17Dec2009 summary is here.
My 16Dec2009 summary is here.
My 14Dec2009 summary is here.
My 11Dec2009 summary is here.
My 10Dec2009 summary is here.
My 9Dec2009 summary is here.
My 7Dec2009 summary is here.
Cross-posted at SquareState.