After years of preparation and two weeks of intense negotiators among thousands, the text of the Copenhagen Accord could be perceived as a little underwhelming. Five pages with nothing strictly binding. After reading it carefully, however, there are some tracks in the sand as far as the future superhighway to a low emission future.
Firstly, the Accord (hence all countries present in Copenhagen) acknowledges that climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time” … “the scientific view that the increase in global temperatures should be below 2°C”. Given final acceptance, this is a stunning outcome that contrasts with previous decades of denial and frustration.
Secondly, the Accord recognises “deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius”.
Again, remarkable given the recent past.
Thirdly, the Accord recognises that ” developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries.”
Nice to see the first acknowledgements by developed countries of their collective responsibility as regards the more vulnerable developing countries.
The accord also outlines in broad details where, when and when not verification is appropriate to ensure that “national sovereignty is respected.” There is even mention of long-term targets of 1.5°C and the need to support REDD-plus and other important initiatives.
In many ways, the judgement of whether or not COP15 was successful depends very much on expectations at the beginning.
For example, if success is defined as achieving a broad, science-based and equitable treaty signed in Copenhagen, then COP15 is an abject failure. On the other hand, if the performance of COP15 is measured relative to progress even five years ago (remember the ‘ostrich days’ of Howard and Bush?), then it has been an outrageous success. However, that wouldn’t be hard to beat. The important thing is to measure it relative to where we need to go.
And in that regard, we have a long way to go. This said, the success of Copenhagen will be judged on what happens post-Copenhagen. My children and I are on the edges of our seats in this regard!