New Delhi: It took the world two years of hair-splitting arguments to reach Copenhagen. The journey will continue, this time to Mexico in 2010, the next deadline for a United Nations (UN) climate treaty.
The much-heralded climate summit in the Danish capital ended on Saturday with key heads of state and government extending their stay and environmental activists disappointed.
Though the Copenhagen Accord aims at a limit of 2 degrees Celsius on warming, the pathway for countries to remain below the cap is unclear. The accord is non-binding, much to the dismay of vulnerable island nations and climate campaigners.
Destination Mexico: Workers remove an exhibit at the Bella Center after the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen ended with a non-binding accord, disappointing climate activists. Ints Kalnins / Reuters
“What we have after two years of negotiation is a half-baked text of unclear substance,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate Initiative. “With the possible exceptions of US legislation and the beginnings of financial flows, none of the political obstacles to effective climate action have been solved.”
One of the positive outcome of the negotiations, led by the US and including China, India, Brazil and South Africa, is financing for developing nations to combat climate change under the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.
“Developed countries set a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion (Rs4.7 trillion) a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries,” according to the text of the accord. “The funds will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral.”
Short-term financing pledges from rich countries between 2010 and 2012 includes $10.6 billion from the European Union, $11 billion from Japan and $3.6 billion from the US.
Also See | Key points from the Copenhagen Accord (PDF)
But the big question of deep and ambitious emission cuts by the developed countries remains unanswered, in spite of emerging economies such as China and India stepping up their efforts by announcing domestic action on mitigation.
Though the accord strives to keep global warming within a 2 degrees Celsius rise, a UN internal document (15 December) said current levels of emission cut pledges will cause that limit to be breached.
“It clearly falls well short of what the public around the world was expecting,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s clearly not enough to keep temperatures on a track below 2 degrees” Celsius.
Commitments from the rich nations, which they will implement, individually or jointly from 2020, will need to be listed in the accord before 31 January 2010.
Emission commitments from industrialized nations had been the top priority on the agenda for the Copenhagen summit and Yvo de Boer, executive secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was frank about the outcome.
“We must be honest about what we have got,” said de Boer. “The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal. But clearly, ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to hold the world to 2 degrees.”
India had to concede one of its long-held positions—not to submit those of its domestic actions not supported by international finance and technological help to scrutiny and verification—as part of the deal.
A number of developing countries, including India, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years, also listing their voluntary pledges before 31 January.
Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support are to be rec
orded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support from industrialized nations.
The final deal, however, was not supported by all nations. The UN structure needs all countries to support a statement for it to be adopted by the framework convention. In the absence of this, the meeting had to decide to merely “take note” of the accord.
The document “is a solution based on the same very values, in our opinion, that channelled six million people in Europe into furnaces,” said Sudan’s Lumumba Stanislaus Di-aping, a reference to the Holocaust that did not go down well with developed country delegates.
The focus now shifts to 2010 and the resumption of intense negotiations on which country needs to do what and by when.
“We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action,” said de Boer. “However, we need to be clear that it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable.”
Reuters contributed to this story.