Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Copenhagen reconsidered

I realize the climate summit was a zillion years ago. However if you want a break from the vultures circling the DNC, this interview between Lindsay Beyerstein at UN Dispatch and Tom Hilde may provide some perspective on that other crisis.

The Copenhagen Accord was a disappointment to many who believed that the conference would result in firm commitments to emissions reductions, climate aid, and maximum temperature increases. Nevertheless, Hilde argues, real progress was made during the final days of negotiations. He believes that Copenhagen may have laid the groundwork for a binding agreement next year at COP16 in Mexico City.

UND: The media have painted the summit as a failure because the Copenhagen Accord was not unanimously adopted. You have argued that real progress was made in Copenhagen, nevertheless. Can you elaborate?

TH: The Copenhagen Accord is admittedly vague. It is nonetheless an agreement between all of the major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), nations that are essential to any effective climate treaty. That in itself is crucial – this is a global problem requiring a near-global effort among parties who disagree on many issues. This is also the first time since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that generated the UNFCCC that the US has committed to anything concrete in the United Nations climate change regime. The countries have agreed to implement emissions reductions targets for the year 2020, which are to be listed by each party in the appendices to the Accord. The deadline for this is January 31st. Brazil paved the way by recently announcing a significant emissions reductions effort. We’ll have to wait until the end of the month to see what other countries will do.

Disappointment with the Accord stems in part from expectations that Copenhagen would yield a legally binding agreement as outlined at the Bali meeting in 2007. In the run-up to COP15, however, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen outlined a two-step process. Copenhagen would be a “political agreement.” COP16 in Mexico City in a year’s time would draft a legally binding agreement, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said he will push. This may seem like a constant deferral of real action, but it’s not that extraordinary if you look at other international environmental treaties.

Continue reading here

Tom Hilde is a professor at the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland. He attended the Copenhagen Summit as a delegate with the Heinrich Böll Foundation and covered the conference for the Center for American Progress and Climate Progress. UN Dispatch caught up with him in early January.

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