Copenhagen Wrapped Up?

Masked climate activists protest outside U.N. climate talks in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009, (AP Photo)

The negotiations in Copenhagen have finished, and dignitaries, world leaders, and activists are heading home with copies of the draft Copenhagen Accord in their pockets. It’s not what many had hoped for, and I’m feeling disappointed and deflated as I read over the outcomes.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to scavenge for scraps of “insider news” from the Bella Centre for the last couple of weeks, then you might find this brief summary of what has come out of Copenhagen useful. I wasn’t there, and I have not read the draft Accord, but this is what I know:

Copenhagen Accord: The Basics

  • No legally binding emissions targets were set. From what I understand, countries have been asked to develop and submit their mid-term (2020) emissions targets by February 2010. However, the Accord includes a target of 80% reductions from 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Negotiators settled on limiting temperature rise to 2C. This has major implications for developing nations, and is significantly higher then the 1.5C rise that many environmental groups, developing nations, and climate scientists have been advocating for…. not ambitious.
  • A date for the peak of global emissions was not set.
  • A statement regarding the important role of deforestation in climate change was included in the Copenhagen Accord, but it is vague and does not specify mechanisms for an outcome from Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).
  • This accord is not a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol – an important factor because it means that countries are still responsible for their commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, as well as what comes from the final version of the Copenhagen Accord.
  • As for “fairness,” $30bn of funding for developing nations from 2010-2012 was promised, increasing to $100bn by 2020. These funds will go to the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund – no specifics on who the money will come from, or how it will be used. From what I understand, developing nations will need to agree to international monitoring and verification of their emissions to be eligible to receive funding.
  • Nations have agreed to reconvene in 2015 to readdress targets like the maximum temperature rise of 2C.
  • A goal to make the Copenhagen Accord a legally binding document by the end of 2010.
  • The first time in history that all major greenhouse gas emitting nations (both developed and developing) came together to slow the threat of climate change.

What’s Next?
Canada will be hosting the next G20 Summit in June, and there are already whispers of organizing to show world leaders (once again) how important climate change is to the people they represent. The Copenhagen Accord should become a legally binding document at the COP16 in Mexico City, December 2010 – perfect timing for a sunny vacation… just kidding!

Meanwhile, developed nations have to meet the February 2010 deadline for submitting their specific mid-term emissions targets. From the leaked documents revealing Canada’s position on this, it looks like we have a lot of work to do in January to show Harper and our Government that their proposal is not acceptable.

Take Action
Calling my MP seemed intimidating at first, but then I remembered that his job is to represent me and that if I don’t tell him what I think then he can make as many assumptions about the views of his constituents as he wants. With that in mind, it felt great to tell him (actually his answering machine) what I thought of Canada’s role at Copenhagen, our government’s weak emissions targets, and lack of funding for alternative energy and green jobs.

If you haven’t already, please call your MP and Prime Minister Steven Harper – tell them what you think! Watch how easy it is here.

“While the reality of climate change is not in doubt, […] our ability to take collective action is in doubt…” President Barack Obama

In the coming weeks and months we will need to come together to send a strong and clear message to our government to take action on climate change. Keep your eyes peeled and an ear to the ground for local groups and actions you can participate in. Talk to your friends, family, and collegues about what future you want to see, and then start ‘doing’. We cannot rely on government to organize all the solutions. We cannot stand alone in the face of climate change – identify your strengths and share them with your community to create the blueprint for our survival.


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