Climate accord fails to deliver

Sr Aine Hughes of Caritas South Africa and Christine Campeau, Caritas delegate at the UN in Geneva, marching for climate justice in Copenhagen in December. Credit: Nicholson/Caritas

Sr Aine Hughes of Caritas South Africa and Christine Campeau, Caritas delegate at the UN in Geneva, marching for climate justice in Copenhagen in December. Credit: Nicholson/Caritas

By Christine Campeau,  UN Delegate, Caritas Internationalis

The Copenhagen summit on climate change brought together 115 Heads of State and Government and more than 40,000 people applying for accreditation, which far exceeded the conference center’s 15,000 capacity, to reach a meaningful deal. No legally binding deal was reached and what was agreed fell sort of what scientists say we need to do to save the planet and our own skins.

What did come out was the Copenhagen Accord was a non-transparent, non-binding deal drafted up by the US, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa that the official UNFCCC Secretariat only agreed ‘to take note of’.

As the fanfare and recriminations from Copenhagen ebb, negotiators are facing the hard task of putting talks back on some sort of recognized road to reaching a deal. No agenda has been set at this stage to move this agreement forward.

That lack of gusto was much in evidence this week as 55 countries announced their pledges as part of the Copenhagen Accord on ‘mitigation’ – what actions they will take to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

More countries can submit pledges later, but already combined pledges account for 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sounds good? Wrong.

Some of the pledges committed are even weaker than those made before the Copenhagen climate change talks. Unless the current level of ambition of these targets is increased, global temperatures will continue to rise above three degrees, which is way above the threshold for dangerous climate change.

Several nations refuse to recognize the Copenhagen Accord, inviting questions as to the political weight that it carries. If the consequences for breaching the Accord’s commitments are simply public shaming and the withholding of optional funding, what is there to encourage nations to abide by their commitments?

And speaking of funding, while wealthy nations state their financial pledges for short-term support, there is no mechanism in place to collect or distribute that money to those who need it most. In short, the question of financial aid for developing nations to adapt to climate changes and develop sustainable growth plans remains unresolved.

And there is a high risk that the Accord could sidetrack the UN process and the Kyoto Protocol itself, the so far single multilateral treaty instrument committing developing countries to binding emissions reductions. This would ignore the very principle of historical responsibility of those countries who have contributed most to the problem.

This is not the fair, legally binding and comprehensive climate treaty that was demanded by millions of people around the world. While some optimists believe that it was the first time that major developing nations put their commitments on paper, developing countries will continue to suffer and longer-term aid will remain illusive.

Countries listed alongside the text of the Copenhagen Accord does not go far enough to meet the scale of the challenge that the international community is faced with.

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Filed under Advocacy, Climate Change, Denmark, Europe, Food

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