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Monday, Dec 21, 2009, 8:52 am

The Mulch: Tepid Accord Reached in Copenhagen

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
After two weeks of negotiations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop15), global leaders produced a limited, non-binding agreement that was noted, but not adopted. President Barack Obama presented the Copenhagen Accord to the summit on Friday night, calling it an "important milestone." The accord promises global cooperation to combat climate change, recognizes the need to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, and commits funding for developing nations to battle the impacts of global warming.

But on Saturday, after President Obama had returned to Washington, leaders from Europe and the least developed nations announced that the accord was not definitive and represented the views of only a few countries. In particular, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, chair of the Group of 77, which represents the poorest nations in the world, pushed back, claiming that their interests had been abandoned.

As David Roberts reports in Grist: "Since the ... process requires unanimity to move forward, Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen could only look on, bewildered, as country after country restated its position in increasingly emotional terms."

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told reporters that the more powerful countries overlooked the interests of their less fortunate neighbors, according to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

"I think the countries that can really make a difference have not really got sensitive enough to the plight of the poorest of the poor. I think that’s a harsh reality which we have no choice but to accept," Pachauri said.

The accord left out crucial elements that tripped negotiators up throughout the week. David Corn and Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones report that the accord "...contains few specific numbers—beyond "recognizing the scientific view" that a global temperature rise should be 'below 2 degrees.' It dropped language from an earlier draft calling for cutting global emissions in half by 2050. The agreement urges developed nations to implement reductions they have already pledged—without spelling out those numbers or [establishing] baseline years. Developing nations would establish their own emissions curbs."

During the summit, China objected to requirements that would allow outside monitoring of its emissions. That issue remained one of the thorniest points during Friday's negotiations. Corn and Sheppard report that President Obama proposed that instead of "examination and assessments," countries would commit to "international consultations and analysis."

“A 'consultation' is obviously less intrusive than an 'examination,' Corn and Sheppard write. "But what does "international consultations and analysis"—soon to be referred to as ICA—mean? Asked this, [Brazil's climate ambassador Sergio] Serra shrugged and said, "Ehhhh." He added, "The definition will be negotiated by a panel of people. They will decide what it means, like everything else."

The deal that Obama and major developing nations drafted on Friday represented the best result of a tumultuous conference. Going back to Grist, David Roberts writes that even at the beginning of the summit, leaked draft agreements were more promising than the actual outcome. The final accord, according to Roberts, "achieved only the barest of Obama’s aims: One, to draw the major emitters among the developing nations—China, India, and Brazil—into a process that would yield concrete commitments on their part, and two, to get funding flowing from developed countries to developing countries to aid their efforts to deal with climate change."

Throughout the two week summit, activists from around the world gathered to pressure leaders into significant action. But, thanks to Cop15's tepid outcome, some climate change advocates already are looking towards the next major global meeting, which will be held in Mexico, in 2010.

Beverly Keene, the international coordinator of Jubilee South, told Inter Press Service that “the primary challenge is to broaden and strengthen the links between the different civil society movements and networks in the region.”

And outside the conference in Copenhagen, activists gathered to broadcast their opinions of the summit’s achievements and their continuing commitment to change. As Jamie Henn writes in Yes! Magazine,

"In less than an hour, hundreds of us will gather in a snowy courtyard outside the Osknehallen to stand with candles and torches and form the words "Climate Sham" and then transform into the words "Climate Shame" for an aerial photograph. The image will express the frustration and anger that we want to convey to the world leaders who are blocking progress here at the talks yet still trying to spin Copenhagen as some sort of success.

"Yet, we’ll also be forming another message: "Climate Hope," Henn says. "It’s a reminder that this fight isn’t over."

Although the accord is a small step forward, politicians around the world have their work cut out for them. A few reminders of the consequences, should they fail to stop the effects of climate change on the planet:

  • AlterNet's Tara Lohan lists eight great things we could lose, including French wines and coral reefs.


  • At TAPPED, Alexandra Gutierrez posts about the island nation Tuvalu, which is “highly vulnerable to rises in sea level.”


  • For Mother Jones, Jen Phillips writes that “If we don't get emissions on track, fast, it'll be today's babies and kids who'll have to do it twice as quickly in 2050.”


  • This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
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