Monday, 21 December 2009

Outcomes from Copenhagen - No legally binding deal but a Copenhagen Accord of vague commitments

Climate change talks at Copenhagen ended last Friday, 18 December, without a legally binding protocol.

An agreement was brokered by the US and China, backing scientists' call to limit global warming to within 2 degrees centigrade against pre-industrial levels. But it contains no improved targets on greenhouse gas emissions from rich nations, does not commit anyone to a legally binding cuts and is not endorsed by the United Nations which needs a consensus from all countries to be enforced.

While it was endorsed by other big players such as the European Union, India and South Africa, the so-called Copenhagen Accord was rejected by smaller UN members such as Sudan, which during the conference acted as the chair of the G77 group of developing nations.

As part of the accord, rich nations agreed to quantify the amount of aid they were willing to give to poor nations to help them reduce their emissions and cope with the consequences of climate change.

Immediate, 'fast-start' aid was quantified at $30 billion over the next three years, with the EU and Japan pledging around $11 billion each, and the US offering $3.6 billion. Rich nations also set themselves the goal of 'mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing nations'.

One of the most controversial issues standing in the way of a legally binding deal between the US and China - which together account for about 40 percent of global emissions - hinged on the question of how much right third countries should have to inspect each other's greenhouse-gas emission claims.

While Obama had called for 'transparency' in the way emission targets should be monitored and reported, China strongly opposed any international exercise that would infringe on its national sovereignty.

The full significance of the deal will not be known until well into next year. Countries are supposed to fill in details of planned cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, left blank in the accord, by the end of next month. The UN is to follow with more talks towards a legally binding global treaty.

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