News

The negotiations in Copenhagen did not produce what the planet and, more particularly, what humanity needs. What did it accomplish?

The Kyoto Protocol remains operational through to 2012. That is unchanged. The Copenhagen Accord is unclear as to the future of the Kyoto Protocol past 2012. Some claim it will replace Kyoto, but that is not yet clear. One reason is that it is open to many interpretations is that the full conference managed to accept the importance of the document (the “take note” route) without adopting it as a full decision of the COP.

I saw Norman Spector’s blog was already ridiculing such language, which surprised me as I thought he had more international experience. Just to give a sense of the significance of “take note,” the Earth Charter process has tried for years to get a UN document “taking note” of the Charter. While endorsed by a number of nations and UN Agencies, we couldn’t get “take note” into the final statement out of Joannesburg in 2002 despite Kofi Annan’s help. The US blocked it. So this language is not without meaning.

What the COP did after nearly being hijacked by a very non-UN, shot-gun wedding kind of negotiation, was hang on to the limited progress in the Copenhagen Accord, without sacrificing what is needed to avoid GHG rising past 2015. Progress is primarily found in a framework for mutual trust and verification of carbon cuts into the future. This trust is critical between the US and China, and especially for President Obama’s benefit in getting both domestic legislation and any future protocol through Congress.

The “take note” route also solidifies the trajectory for those countries in the group of 5 and then 20-something nations that signed on. While their promised cuts are not good enough, and while they are not legally binding, the final COP decision makes it harder for those countries to drop their pledges. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon clearly hopes, this puts pressure on the world’s biggest polluters (and that includes Canada) to start emission reductions immediately.

The “take note” route also makes it harder for the promised financing to be ignored. The US and UK, who pushed this, now have to find the money. Hillary Clinton said “public and private sources.”. Clearly the $100 billion/year pledge by 2020 is not going to come from either existing aid monies, nor is it going to come through existing aid sources. Something innovative is needed. The Tobin Tax would fit the bill. A tax on speculative currency transactions, applied universally and globally, would accomplish two things — stabilize national currencies and help economies around the world (Nobel Prize winner in economics, James Tobin, saw this as the proposal’s main benefit), while raising the funds to meet the Copenhagen Award pledge.

The COP15 summit thus had something to show for the frantic negotiations, but, thanks to a lot of developing country push-back, did so without creating a COP decision that would weaken our chances. It did not take the heat off the process to develop a legally binding treaty. And, it raises the possibility of aligning to avoid 1.5 degrees, instead of 2 degrees, which is not a level of increase to keep the world’s peoples safe.

There remains much about the accord that is dangerous (the review in 2016 being actually terrifying, as if GHGs do not peak and fall by 2015, 2016’s review becomes a post-mortem), but with non-stop meetings continuing between now and COP16 in Mexico City, we have the possibility of getting to where we need to be in time.

Take heart. Be brave. Fear not. The global movement for climate justice has a long road ahead. Enjoy family and friends over the holidays. (I will, so not likely to be blogging as I get some post-COP15 recuperation time).

For anyone for whom this holiday break is a celebration of faith, have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy Chanukah. And for everyone else, enjoy the sense of peace the holidays bring. Recharge your energies. Hug your loved ones. Enjoy.

The New Year will be dedicated to making the difference that protects our world.

– Elizabeth May