Copenhagen ends in disappointment

21 December 2009

The Copehagen COP 15 climate change conference ended without consensus and with much still to do. The Copenhagen Accord set a objective of a maximum 2 ºC increase in global temperatures, but did not set emissions reductions to enable this objective to be achieved. The accord was not adopted by all countries.


Two weeks of negotiations in Denmark ended as a small groups of nations, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the USA drafted a document entitled Copenhagen Accord late in the evening of 18 December. Notably, none of the countries involved in the drafting of the document currently face emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The drafting group also failed to included any European leaders.


The Accord was then presented to the full array of countries as a 'take it or leave it' document. After chaotic scenes where a small number of developing countries fought to formally reject the document, the COP 15 meeting ended with Conference of the Parties 'taking note' of the Accord. Nations will have to individually endorse the document.


Nuclear included
During the negotiations a proposed exclusion of nuclear power projects from national mitigation plans was removed from the texts.

As a result, developing countries are able to include the use of nuclear energy in their list of mitigation actions to be sent to the UNFCCC.

Decisions on whether or not nuclear or carbon capture and storage projects could be included in the CDM and JI after 2012 were deferred to later meetings.

The document is not legally binding and does not set a deadline for a legally binding agreement to be achieved. The need to limit global temperature rise to a maximum of 2 ºC is recognized, but the emissions reductions offered so far by countries will not be sufficient to achieve this goal. During the Copenhagen meeting around 100 of the least developed countries had argued for a 1.5 ºC limit, with some African countries pushing for a 1 ºC.


Developed countries have until 1 February 2010 to inform the UNFCCC of the emissions reduction to which they are willing to commit. By the same date developing countries are to informed the UN what mitigation actions they will undertake to reduce emissions. 


Developed countries have committed to provide $30 billion in new and additional resources to developing countries for emissions reduction and adaptation projects. By 2020 the goal is for the annual figure to grow to $100 billion. However, individual national contributions to these funds has yet to be agreed and the institutional arrangements to manage this financing have not been established.


What future for UNFCCC meetings?


Over two weeks thousands of junior negotiators from 192 countries had worked on two tracks of negotiations, one addressing the future of the Kyoto Protocol, one looking at longer term cooperative actions. Both groups were supposed to present near-complete documents by the middle of the second week of Copenhagen, leaving their lead negotiators and heads of state to reach agreement on the most most contentious issues in the final two days. However, both tracks of negotiations got bogged down in procedual disputes and failed to deliver near-complete texts for the final stages of the negotions.


The way in which the Copenhagen Accord was drafted has raised questions about how the the UNFCCC process will continue. The accord was written by a small group of the larger countries and has only weak links to the outcomes of the earlier twin track negotiations. Both sets of negotiations are now due be taken forward, first to an intermediary meeting in Bonn in June, and then to Mexico City for COP 16 at the end of 2010.