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Monday, 18 January 2010

The Copenhagen Conference

COP15
Sorry 4 posting late. I was busy last week with some school programs. I decided to post a topic about the Copenhagen Conference........ and as usual, I believe the conference was a failure. Seriously, when the UN or the G8 or G20 and all the other 'so-called leaders' have a conference, it's most likely to be a failure. I just posted a brief summary about the COP15. If I put every single detail from the beginning till the end in my post, I'm sure all of you would be asleep even before you reach the middle of my post.
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December 7 – December 18, 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark was the venue for the 15th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 15th Conference of the Parties — or COP 15.
As with previous conferences, thousands of politicians (including head of states), diplomats, journalists, lobbyists and NGOs attended hoping the summit would finalize a post-Kyoto international agreement on climate change to take effect in 2013.
The build-up to the meeting was full of optimism and hope (can you belive that?), as the US was, for the first time in a long time, going to be seen as a positive contributor, and their involvement is always recognized as key. There was also increasing focus on emerging economies such as China and India.
Instead of a positive outcome, most commentators saw it as a failure (So do I) , though for different reasons.

As the Copenhagen conference drew closer, it was becoming more likely that nothing concrete would be achieved due to various impasses.
As early as March, 2009, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said that even if a climate treaty could not be established in Copenhagen, if four essential issues could be addressed, that would alone mean progress. Here are the 4 essential issues:

1.How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
2.How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
3.How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
4.How is that money going to be managed?

Despite the pressure and expectations, including grueling last minute efforts to salvage something, all that emerged was a vague agreement — the Copenhagen Accord (I can't belive how slow the UN works.) .
This Accord, brokered by the US in a backroom agreement between Brazil, China, India and South Africa came about in the final hours of the 2-week conference. (Lesson learned. Never do your homework at the last minute.) But not without controversy because:
-Some delegates out of the 187 countries excluded from this backroom meeting were visibly upset at not being involved
-Some therefore decided not to support it, and
-In the end, the accord had no legal standing under the UN convention on climate change — participating countries merely noted its existence and expressed support or not. (Look at how LOVING and SUPPORTIVE these countries are!)

These are the key points in the Copenhagen Accord:
-To keep the maximum temperature rise to below 2°C (I wonder if this will actually be achieved.)
-To list developed country emission reduction targets and mitigation action by developing countries for 2020
-$30 billion short-term funding for immediate action till 2012
-$100 billion annually by 2020 in long-term financing
-Reiterating past intentions such as providing mechanisms to support technology transfer and forestry.

While many were disappointed with the final outcome, many (especially some politicians, LIKE ME, at the conference who perhaps had to avoid losing face) tried to put a positive spin on things.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen was interviewed as saying, “The top leaders were taking Copenhagen seriously as their deadline and delivered beforehand. Had Obama not been due to attend, I doubt whether the US would have begun committing on long-term finance – which is historical. (Yeah, right. Obama can just talk the talk but he can't walk the talk, seriously.) Had Lula not been due to attend, Brazil would hardly have raised its level of ambitions. Had Wen not been due to attend, China would probably not have opened to some level of international insight as to what it is doing – which actually is a globally politically significant admission.”

I hope you're still awake and reading my post. If you can, don't fall asleep.

-Did you know that rich nations have emitted most of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, that developing countries’ emissions are likely to rise on their path to industrialization and trying to meet basic social and development needs; and that therefore while the goals are the same, the means to tackle climate change will be different.
-Year after year at climate summits, it seems this principle is often ignored by some rich nations and their media. (These rich nations think they're so MIGHTY that they can do anything, huh.)
-It has therefore been easier in public to blame nations like China and India for reacting negatively and being uncooperative when faced with pressure to submit to emission reduction targets (before many rich nations demonstrate they can do the same).
Greenhouse gases tend to remain in the atmosphere for many decades so historical emissions are an important consideration.
-Also, the rich nations (known as “Annex I countries” in UN climate change speak) have historically emitted more than the rest of the world combined, even though China, India and others have been growing recently. This is why the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle was recognized. (The blip in the 1990s is when the Soviet Union collapsed).

The following part isn't really important. It's mostly about the poor nations vs the rich nations. So, you can go to sleep now.

The US and others have characterized the campaign for climate justice and equality to the atmosphere as a way to claim climate “reparations”; that it is unfair to make the industrialized nations pay for climate emissions into the past century or more at a time when they didn’t know it would cause more harm.
That seems reasonable. However, one of the implications of that any agreement that is subsequently drawn up will, in effect, put disproportionately more burden on the poorer countries to tackle a problem they did not largely cause. The poor are less likely to have the resources to do so, which also means that tackling climate change is less likely to be successful.
This is why rich nations are being asked to seriously think about the type and way they use energy in addition to helping the poorer nations (not necessarily “reparations” but through meaningful technology and adaptation assistance — which would be far less costly than the bailouts readily handed to people that did cause a major problem).
In addition, there is little fairness in asking China, India and others to be subject to emission targets when many rich countries didn’t achieve the watered down Kyoto targets themselves.
Some emerging nations are in a grey area — India, China, Brazil, etc are rapidly developing and although they have enormous social and development problems outstanding, some of their wealthy are as wealthy (some more so) as those in industrialized nations. As such, wealthier developing nations aren’t necessarily the target (nor asking) for such adaptation funds.
It is certainly more complex than a few sentences on this page can provide, but the simplification offered by rich country leaders and their media hides this complexity year after year.

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