The Copenhagen Conference of the Parties did not yield the results that were expected both at the time of the 13th Conference of the Parties which took place in Bali in December 2007 and over many months following that event.
The need for a strong agreement in Copenhagen was dictated by the realities of climate change based on the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which created widespread awareness across the world, both in respect of the impacts of climate change (assuming that the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) remain unmitigated) as well as the benefits from reducing emissions. A global agreement was seen as an important and essential step in moving forward. However, what emerged in Copenhagen was a document that is now known as the Copenhagen Accord, which was agreed on by a limited number of countries and, therefore, does not have any status other than a collective expression of intent by the countries who reached agreement on this accord. The accord itself has some useful features. For instance, it acknowledged the need for limiting temperature increase to 2? C, a goal that several members of civil society and the public have been advocating for some time now. The accord also targeted financial assistance of around US$ 30 billion during the period 2010-12 to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and implement mitigation measures. In addition, there was a positive reference to actions for reducing deforestation and degradation which has been under discussion for some time now, and represents an effective means for reducing global GHG emissions through the implementation of appropriate measures in a number of countries where deforestation is a serious problem, such as in Brazil which has extensive reserves of forests in the Amazon region. These are currently being depleted at a significant rate.
The question arises on how the world might move forward from where we are, now that we do not have a firm agreement from Copenhagen and that we have less than a year to achieve tangible results in Mexico when the next Conference of the Parties takes place at the end of this year.
To attain success globally would require leadership at an unprecedented level from several countries in the world. There is evidence of a great deal of organized resistance which is manifesting itself in several places, such as delay in passage of legislation pending in the US Senate. In a democracy it is essential that the public understand the importance of early action in meeting the challenge of climate change, and the benefits that human society would derive as a result. There is, therefore, need for visionary leadership, which can see beyond and set in place a transition from today’s fossil fuel based economic system to one that not only uses energy more efficiently but brings about a transition to renewable sources of energy. The current economic downturn in some countries rather than being a constraint in bringing about such a transition actually represents a unique opportunity that the leadership and the public around the world must comprehend and pursue, if we are to get a global agreement for initiating action at the Mexico Conference of the Parties.
Photo © Sara Galbiati