Good Bad News about Copenhagen Climate Conference

Good  Bad News about Copenhagen Climate Conference

The Copenhagen climate change conference generated much heat across the world but the outcome has disappointed many because there was no legally binding agreement to reduce the greenhouse gases by 2020 or 2050.

A statement that limiting a global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050 is a good thing but it is a long way short of the enforceable undertakings optimists expected countries to adopt.

The final accord, a 12-paragraph document, was a statement of intention, not a binding pledge to begin taking action on global warming. World leaders insisted that the climate deal clinched at the UN Summit was the best that can be done and it is a step forward.

Good News:

The good news that came out of Copenhagen is that the US and China, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, plus fast-industrialising India and Brazil as well as South Africa, the continent’s only developed economy, all recognised that with the world watching, something had to be done.

The meeting did demonstrate that there is no longer mainstream political opposition to reducing greenhouse emissions. While the specific impacts of climate change are not agreed, there is a global political consensus that all governments must act.

That President Obama staked his prestige on getting a deal done, however limited, demonstrates the power of public opinion on a global scale. That Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who does not want any agreement that will slow economic growth, went along, shows that China realised the damage adamant opposition to an agreement would do to its international standing.

Bad News:

The bad news is many developing countries including Sudan, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia did not approve that President Obama had concluded a deal with newly emerging nations and that was why no consensus was achieved and the conference could not adopt the final document.

Another bad news in the conference decision to “note” undertakings hammered out by US President Barack Obama with a cross-section of countries at the conference- China, Brazil, India and South Africa – is that world leaders could not agree even on this very limited plan to cutting emissions.

The worse news is that Copenhagen did not update the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries and non-signatories to the Kyoto Protocol remain free to do what they like. After Copenhagen, there are no enforceable undertakings on what individual nations, notably China and the US, should do to achieve the two-degree ceiling for increased temperatures- and 2050 is a long way away.

The European Union, which already has an emissions trading system, wanted a much more bolder pledge for reduction of carbon emission but the EU was disappointed at what they considered Europe’s marginalisation at the talks.

As for the $30 billion commitment to help poor countries cope with climate change over the next three years, with an aspirational undertaking of increased assistance down the track, some say this has less to do with cutting global emissions than a bribe to shut the mouth of poor countries, especially African countries.

As for the US$100 billion commitment by the US which will be available after 2020 to vulnerable countries, they will have to submit their action plans to the UN by 2010. It is not certain whether the US Congress agrees with such commitment.


The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who led a strong delegation to the Danish capital, told the 194-nation summit that although Bangladesh’s greenhouse gas contribution was negligible, it was one of its worst victims. She appealed to the wealthiest countries to cut carbon emissions, which are blamed for climate change, by 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, exceeding the pledges made by any of them.

The Prime Minister, however, took a pragmatic view on the Copenhagen Accord and said she was satisfied with the Copenhagen summit’s outcome, and hoped rows over thorny issues would be ironed out soon.

“I am pleased to say that we have been successful in arriving at a reasonable conclusion,” Sheikh Hasina said, while speaking at Lund University in Denmark on 19th December, hours after the world leaders hammered out a deal. “An agreement has been agreed upon taking in most of all our concerns. There are certain areas that would be finalised in the coming days,” she said, according to the full script of her speech released in Dhaka on 20 December.

As for the funds available in future, there is a report that it would be targeted for mitigation (damage prevention) and not for adaptation (damage control). Bangladesh needs money primarily for adaptation, not for mitigation that is earmarked for countries which are the largest five emitters in the world (China, US, Brazil, Indonesia and India).

However, Bangladesh’s case is seen by West as a threat to security because millions of people in Bangladesh will become “climate refugees” and where will they go? The West and others think that refugees will travel to other countries and to prevent that flood of refugees, funds may be allotted to Bangladesh.


It seems likely the other developed economies, the members of the G20, which in combination account for 90 per cent of the world’s economy, will follow the US and China’s lead.

In March President Obama convened a parallel group of 17 states, the Major Economies Forum, which includes Australia, to consider climate change. The discussions that will follow will offer developed economies the chance to commit to emission reductions in a practical timeframe, say by 2020. It is an opportunity many nations will want to take.

And after the disappointment in the Danish capital, the world will want to know whether the US will deliver, or even improve, on President Obama’s offer of a 17 per cent cut by 2020, based on 2005 levels.

While negotiations for a worldwide agreement have stalled, many states will be eager to conclude bilateral and regional arrangements independent of the flawed UN process that will stagger on to next year’s meeting in Mexico.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Place your ads here!

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment