Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen

On this page Rixa Schwarz from CEE Germany reports on the international negotiations on climate change both pre and during the conference*

Did you already notice the first impacts of climate change? Extremeweather events like heat waves in North India, droughts, storms and changes in the pattern of the monsoon in Western India? Scientists
predict even more serious impacts if the main causes for climate
change are not controlled. Probably you agree with me when I say

Government representatives from all countries met in Copenhagen, Denmark from 7 December to 18 December 2009 for exactly this reason - how can human kind control the root
causes of climate change?

The international body for climate issues, the United Nation Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathers representatives from all countries around the world once a year (with one
preparation meeting) at meetings called ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COPs) to discuss the protection of the earth’s climate and adaptation to climate change impacts. The year of 2009
was different though: we had five preparation meetings for the crucial COP 15 in Denmark.

Why was the Copenhagen COP important?
The Kyoto Protocol (1997) was the first international treaty that committed industrialized countries to limit their greenhouse gas emission. It is valid until 2012. Scientific understanding about
climate change has increased since 1997; scientists say that the amounts of green house gases in the atmosphere are already very high and still rising, which might make it difficult to prevent
dangerous climate change. Governments were to prepare a treaty coming into force 1 January 2013 to replace the Kyoto Protocol and avoid dangerous climate change.

What was the expectation?
The vision for the new agreement that the 192 countries discussed at COP 15 in Copenhagen includes amongst others:
  • 50% global reduction of climate threatening greenhouse gas
    emissions by 2050
  • Agreements on large emission reductions for industrialized countries that have historically been the biggest emitters, like the USA and Europe - and maybe others like China.
  • Industrialized countries shall provide money and technologies to less-industrialized countries to adapt to impacts of climate change.

Differing Opinions
Countries have differing opinions on the responsibility for the changing climate and the cost sharing. The difficulties are

  1. Several high income countries as well as growing economies depend on energy from
    burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas that all emit greenhouse gases
  2. The shift to renewable energies such as solar or wind power is seen be costly (while in fact inaction is more costly)
  3. Certain industrialized countries do not want to take full responsibility for emission cuts but ask countries in transition (mainly China) to also lower their emissions
  4. Countries in transition request industrialized countries to act in accordance to their historical responsibility to reduce emissions before they themselves cut their emissions
  5. The USA as one of the key players has not yet made national policies and so are not fully prepared for negotiating international targets.

What happened?

High Expectations
We went to Copenhagen with high expectations. During the previous two years experts had worked on technical preparations for an international deal for climate protection replacing the Kyoto Protocol. This deal was supposed to be sealed at the UN climate summit, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) held in Copenhagen, Denmark 7th to 18th December 2009. We were hoping for a fair, ambitious and binding deal, a FAB deal, amongst the 192 nations out of which 119 were represented by their heads of states in person.

What is FAB?
Fair, ambitious and binding – those were the attributes that the NGO community asked for: the deal should be fair amongst the countries, ambitious enough to limit global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C and legally binding in order to make countries fulfil their targets in terms of emission reduction and adaptation funding. This was the checklist that was prepared to measure the outcome of COP 15.

What did we get?
The Copenhagen outcome disappointed many expectations. Instead of a binding deal a ‘Copenhagen Accord’ was agreed upon. The Accord lets countries take note of the 2°C limit but
does not make it their goal to avoid a warming of that extent. No ambitious emission reduction targets were set for developed countries. And many countries from the so-called global South
felt excluded from the negotiations amongst the big players like the USA, China, India, Brazil,South Africa and Europe. Conclusion: The Copenhagen Accord as a political agreement does not fulfil the essential criteria identified by civil society and other stakeholders.

What went wrong?
Several reasons are to name in order to explain the failure of the Copenhagen Summit: at first, several countries came to Copenhagen with their prepared positions but without room for negotiations in these positions. President Obama could not promise any further action in Copenhagen than what he had discussed on national level before. China refused to recognize
its leading position while the European Union was overstrained. Others - like India - blocked the outcome to be legally binding. Secondly, the trust between developed countries, emerging
economies and developed countries was broken which made it hard to achieve compromises. But not all was lost…

The positive side
Despite the weak outcome of Copenhagen some positive changes occurred. We have to recognize that the power balance in the world is changing: the USA and China were negotiating as equal partners and even other countries like India made a stronger voice being heard. The same is true for the small island state of Tuvalu that called for ‘island survival’ to be reached by a maximum
temperature rise of 1.5°C (instead 2°C). The Copenhagen Accord does show some achievements on financial support and technology cooperation for developing countries, protection
of forests, and more international transparency regarding the climate protection activities of countries. This could be a basis for this year’s negotiations.

What now?
The Copenhagen Summit is over, but the negotiations will have to and will continue. The next COP is going to be held in Mexico end of 2010. Preparations will begin early and hopefully we will see a
FAB deal as the outcome of another year of hard work. But, actually, the Copenhagen Summit made one thing evident for me: when political negotiations fail, social movements become more important. The Summit raised a lot attention to the challenge of tackling climate change and people all around the world are getting active on living less carbon-intensive lifestyles. People showed during the global action day on 12th December that the pathway towards a climate-friendly society
does not need to be lead by politicians only.

Communities have the power to get involved and start a climatefriendly future from the grass-root level. Would you like to be part of it?

For more information visit:

* The article first appeared in CEE’s Earth Care page in Sakal Young Buzz, December 4 2009 and January 1 2010.

For India’s national action plan for climate change (NAPCC)

Intervention made by India’s Environment Minister at the Pre-COP meeting at Copenhagen on November 16 2009
  1. India is prepared to reflect in any agreement its commitment to keep its per capita emissions below that of the developed countries. India´s per capita approach has drawn wide support including from two Nobel Laureates (Schelling and Spence) and from the German Council for Climate Change, an influential think tank. India´s per capita emissions are now around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent and are expected to be around 2 to 2.5 tonnes by 2020 and 3 to 3.5 tonnes by 2030. The per capita limit is an onerous limit that India has imposed on itself.
  2. India has several nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) which it is considering to convert to nationally accountable mitigation outcomes (NAMOs) by indicating specific performance targets in industry, energy, transport, agriculture, buildings and forestry for the year 2020 and 2030. These NAMOs could be institutionalised through either legislative or executive action and are derived from the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the 11th Five Year Plan document.
  3. India is prepared to submit a National Communication once every two years to the UNFCCC covering both supported and unsupported actions and their outcomes as well as their impacts on emissions. This National Communication could be used as a basis for international consultations with the UNFCCC. This will more than meet the demand for international reflection of domestic commitments and obligations taken on unilaterally. The format of reporting could be decided by the UNFCCC after discussions and consensus among Parties.
  4. India will make low carbon sustainable growth a central element of its 12th Plan growth strategy. This will mean taking on commitments to reduce energy to GDP intensity and corresponding emission reduction outcomes for the year 2020.

For more information visit:

No comments: