If we look beyond our immediate disappointment, we can just about view a glimmer of hope in what some bloggers are calling ‘Flopenhagen.’ The Copenhagen Accord, deemed ‘a disaster’ by Sweden and a ‘suicide pact’ by the G77, could actually represent the chaotic conception of a post carbon world order. At least it is so vague that it leaves massive room for improvement.
First, causes for hope coming out of COP15:
- 194 nations have spent the last 2 weeks feverishly focused on forging a global deal to mitigate climate change. While they may not have managed to produce a real one, they did manage to draw massive global attention to the ordeal.
- 194 countries have, by dint of their Herculean efforts, unequivocally legitimized climate change as a) real b) the largest universal problem ever faced by human society on the planet and c) unacceptable. Climate deniers can go home.
- As one blogger wrote – what Copenhagen has just hosted was the world’s first major Accountability Summit. Civil society is now engaged with this space. Informal media is all over it. Activists are using New Media to engage civil society in unprecendented, highly innovative ways. Citizen journalists are reaching deeper into local networks and touching more and more people. Finally, we have a global civic movement on our hands. 15 million people of all cultures are uniting on this front.
- Thanks to Tuvalu and the incredible work of tcktcktck and the dedication of their millions of followers, 350 ppm is, though shelved in the last 18 hours by the new G2 (US and China), unofficially back on the table. For a moment last week, it was the moral measuring stick. It’s not going to go away either. Many developed countries expressed their frustration at the stalling effect of Tuvalu’s protest on an issue many considered already agreed, and some even suspected a coordinated campaign, backed by China. But the truth is that the 350 campaign does a fantastic job of highlighting a) the fact that climate change is already happening, and means the disappearance of homelands for many people b) the serious gamble that a 2 degrees rise actually represents, according to the science. It reminds nations to aim high.
- Let’s imagine the worst-case nightmare scenario of climate-nobyl of the climate talks with neither China nor the US budging an inch. We didn’t see that. In a way, the ‘Accord’ is a hallmark of human cooperation. The beloved Obama personally appeared at the talks (don’t quite understand how it could even have been a possibility for Obama not to appear at these talks – but for all those out there who haven’t quite yet grasped the gravity of the climate crisis, Obama’s intervention signaled what a big deal climate change really is). He and the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, supposedly a passionate environmentalist, agreed in concept to work towards a legally binding treaty to keep warming to 2 degrees C and measure and verify regional emissions. It’s a start.
- We did have movement on financial aid - a small amount of short-term funding to help the poorest countries adapt ($30 billion total for the next three years), and a larger longer-term package ($100 billion per year by 2020). Surprisingly AOSIS (the Island Nations) agreed to back the Accord at 5 AM on Saturday morning in exchange for initial fast-start funding pledged by the U.S and the EU. The Maldives thinks we can work towards a more ambitious, legally binding treaty.
- A Der Spiegel reporter called Inhofe ‘rediculous’ to his face during his own press conference. Hah!
Now the drawbacks:
- What happened to the UN process? From Day 2 onwards accusations of a lack of transparency echoed throughout the conference hall, and many countries expressed their dissatisfaction with Denmark’s handling of back room negotiations and the drafting of an unprecedented 3 page text that bypasses the UN process. The 3 page text was essentially manhandled into being by the US and the BASIC group - China, India, Brazil, South Africa plus 20 additional ‘friendly nations.’ While this group is accountable for more than 80% of global emissions, not all nations have signed on to it. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela have in fact opposed it. But perhaps it is simply impossible for a world forum like the UN to produce a global framework - perhaps we should abandon an heroic attempt at hyper-multilateralism. We certainly have to take our hats off to the Danes for attempting to reach unanimity on this utterly complex and intractable issue.
- The Accord is not a UN sanctioned consensus document, and joining it is voluntary for each nation. The US delegation made it very clear that this document cannot be modified by UN officials, and that the accord was made far above the level of UN officials. The UN has officially moved to “take note” of the agreement, which basically means it MAY be considered in future COP’s as the framework for the legally binding agreement. This means it could be easily sidelined, and the UN is faced with another six months of tangled, slow moving negotiations in order to be able to formally accept it. Check out the WRI’s Q&A for some legal details.
- The Accord establishes the target of max 2 degrees C rise in mean global temperature but it does not give a target date. This is really bad news as the emissions trajectory and the peak out year is absolutely essential. Scientists are saying we have to have reached peak emissions globally by 2015 in order to avoid runaway climate change.
- According to the C-ROADS simulator, the current voluntary pledges to reduce emissions amount to a 3.9 degrees C rise. This is way beyond what would be deemed ‘safe’ for the planet.
We have a lot more work to do!
After quite a disheartening weekend, I’ll be posting a few entries on how the climate summit ended, global response and where we can go from here.
Today’s Guardian (UK) included a 2 page spread on the reaction to the Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Below, I’ve transcribed the global response (via press) to give you a snippet of world’s reaction:
United States: The New York Times said goals had not been attained despite claims of a breakthrough by President Obama
Norway: The Sunday Aftenposten told readers of the major disappointment felt by all political parties after the summit
Japan: Calling hte accord a ‘vague, non-legal pact’, the Japan Times reported on the anger of developing antions
Denmark: What now, world? asks a newspaper from the city that hosted the talks
India: The English-language daily reported claims that India and China had moved away from their traditional G77 allies
Thailand: the Thai prime minister pronounced the talks a failure, according to The Nation on Sunday
Italy: La Stampa called the summit a flop an described ‘a revolt by little countries disappointed by the talks’
Lebanon: The An-Nahar joked that at least delegates could agree on the need for sleep at the Copenhagen talks
Phillipinnes: The Inquirer sad the Philippines negotiator at the talks defended the outcome as better tha nothing
Australia: Brisbane’s Sunday mail dismissed the conclusion of hte Copenhagen talks as an expensive failure ‘NOPENHAGEN’
South Africa: “The Hopelesshagen Flop’ was the front-page headline in the Sunday Independent.
France: Media verdict was unanimous. An editorial in Le Monde was entitled simply: “A disappointment’
The climate summit, held in Copenhagen, is due to end today and with the little decisions reached thus far and the polar divide between rich and poor nations increasing - is the delivery of a deal to curb carbon emissions realistic?
However, I want to stay optimistic. After all, 120 Heads of State and government are participating and this accounts for a whopping 89% of the world’s GDP, making it the largest summit outside of New York. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered the bellowing message this morning:
“The world is watching. We are closer than ever to an agreement. We are united in purpose. We must be united in action. It will be your legacy for all time.”
Meanwhile, here’s a brief update on some of the key issues:
1. Perhaps the issue that has seen the most progress COP15 is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) which aims to slow deforestation through conservation and carbon credits. This would allow developed nations to pay countries to conserve their rainforests. A final draft agreement was presented to the delegations on Wednesday and U.S. Agriculture Secretray announced that the USA would commit $1billion over the next three years. Although up to $20billion will be needed, this pledge is a praiseworthy start.
2. There is no doubt that the Copenhagen Climate Summit is a perplexity of a whole slew of drafts, blueprints and proposals coming in from all angles. When the Guardian (UK) published a leaked ‘Danish text’ on Tuesday Dec 8th, a full blown controversy resulted with secret negotiations, ‘green room’ meetings and the ‘Circle of Commitment’. In short, the text, which was created by the richer economies, excluded the UN process by cutting out developing nations out of the process who are pushing for a strong legally binding deal with ambitious targets. Journalists translated this text as essentially killing off the Kyoto Protocol and binding targets that the UN process was trying reach.
However, at a closer look, there was no great conspiracy. There were no secret meetings and the text had in fact been made public over a week before it was ‘leaked’.
3. As of Tuesday, United Nations negotiators have failed to agree on the financial aid that the US, Japan and other developed nations will give to the developing world to cope with climate change. The breakthrough came when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Americans would back an international 100billion dollar fund to pay for developing countries to help them act on mitigating climate change. And Obama himself today stated “ America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.”
4. This week saw a large amount of protests in Copenhagen and outside the Bella Centre. Most protestors believe that there is lack of democracy in these negotiations, which was highlighted by the removal of NGO’s from the Bella Centre this week. Many groups argue that the United Nations process excludes and marginalizes developing nations and the organizations that fight on behalf of those nations. Over 100,000 people took to the streets last Saturday Dec 12th as a united front and message to leaders to create a sustainable world and solve the climate crisis.
5. Denmark’s climate and energy minister Connie Hedegaard resigned her post as president of the COP15 summit to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the remaining 3 final days of the conference.
“With so many heads of state and governments arriving to give their statements, it is appropriate that the Danish prime minister presides,” Hedegaard said in a brief press statement.
Some journalists and experts speculated that Hedegaard’s environmental views were too radical or that she was not senior enough to hold this title in the remaining days of the summit.
It did not seem like such a big deal to me although I can see that from a policy perspective it is quite shocking that the UNFCCC president is removed. Does this mean that the 2 years of UNFCCC work under the Bali Action Plan is also removed?
6. The email controversy which has taken up so much precious media coverage is quite irrelevant in this global effort to address climate change. No nation has raised official concern about it apart from Saudi Arabia.
See our previous post on these emails http://www.planet-positive.org/ppblog/?p=103
7. If this conference has proved anything, it is that developing nations cannot be placed to the side while developed countries steer global treaty negotiations. When it comes to the matter of climate change, it is fair to argue that negotiations should focus on support for sustainable development rather than emissions cuts. As global energy demand is certain torise with population growth and billions of citizens climbing out of energy poverty, the global community needs to provide access to (CHEAP) energy to developing nations and ensure that this energy is provided by sustainable sources. In my opinion, without a solution to provide sustainable development to the billions of global citizens living in energy poverty, any attempt to stabilize global temperature below 2 degress will most likely fail.
8. China has accepted a level of transparency which means their cuts in emissions would be checked by an international body. GOOD!
9. Last night a draft proposal was produced to be presented to world leaders today. The 3 page document requires that developed nations must take a lead on climate change mitigation by “mobilising jointly US$100 billion a year by 2020” to finance climate adaption in developing nations. However, the document doesn’t state where this money will come from. The draft document also states that global temperatures must be kept below 2 degree Celsius to prevent catastrophic climate disasters. However, there is no specific emission reduction targets in place (yet). It commits developed countries to implement, “quantified economy-wide emission targets for 2020″ with “aggregate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of X per cent in 2020 compared to 1990 and Y per cent in 2020 compared to 2005″.
Now all we can do is wait
He needs strong public support to be able to unlock the cop15 stalemate…
Tell President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to shift subsidies from big polluters to help developing countries green their economies and fight climate change:
Quick wrap up from CAN of the state of affairs at COP15, Day 7:
1. Split in Shared Vision - Global Peak Year and Target Aggregate Reduction still not decided
2. Africans are concerned over continuation of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol = survival
3. Financial gap - not enough long-term $$ on the table for developing world adaptation
4. Ambition and political gap - we need the Heads of State to clean up the COP15 ‘crime scene’
A tense week ahead….
Check it out here:
As the second week of talks get under way, Climate Interactive’s Climate Scoreboard indicates discussions so far have actually worsened, rather than improved, the global outlook for temperature rise. By making its proposal for emissions reductions conditional on other countries’ actions, Japan caused the scoreboard to move up to a likely temperature rise of 3.9°C (7.0°F) by 2100.
Some pretty confusing stuff, that’s for sure.
Here is the background:
There are two negotiating tracks – the COPs and the MOPs. Back in 1992 150 nations signed up the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) including the U.S. at the Earth Summit in Rio, and began holding Conferences of the Parties (COPs).
In 1997, the COP3 established the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that set binding targets for Greenhouse Gas emissions for 37 industrialized countries (cutting emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012). Back then, developing countries like China and India were not included. (China overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest carbon emitter in 2007).
The U.S. Senate never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but 184 other countries did. That was when the Meeting of Parties (MOPs), or meetings to administer the Kyoto Protocol, were born. FYI – Since 2005 COPs and MOPs have been held at the same time.
The key difference is that the convention encourages industrialized nations to curb emissions while the protocol binds them by law to do so.
Bali in 2007 or COP13 was the next major milestone. The outcome was that parties set a 2 year deadline to reach a long term global deal for mitigating climate change. The convention set up a working group called “Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA)” and the deal coming out of the LCA track is meant to include the US and everyone else.
Major developing nations like China, India, and Brazil favor extending the Kyoto Protocol to future commitment periods, because - it doesn’t legally bind them! (In other words, they will not face any fines or other sanctions if they fail to reduce.) The U.S and other western countries favor creating a new accord out of the LCA that would cover the leading developing nations because these nations are quickly becoming the world’s highest emitters.
Last week at COP15 we heard from a new voice – the AOSIS or Association of Small Island States. Tuvalu in particular spoke out for their largest concern – the survival of their low lying nation. Tuvalu demanded two treaties, one from Kyoto and one from the LCA, so that every country is tied in to a legally binding treaty that is ambitious enough to meet a 350 ppm target with developed world peak outs in 2015. Simply put, without China and India and the U.S. all on reduction pathways, countries like Tuvalu will cease to exist.
What has happened has been nothing less than revolutionary – the 350 ppm target, or 1.5 degree Celsius rise, is back on the table. Or, it has at least become the moral measuring stick. At Bali leaders were agreed on limiting global average temperature rise to 2 degrees C. But 2 degrees C actually means that small island nations like Fiji, Tuvalu and the Maldives will be under water, glaciers will melt (shrinking water supplies for millions of people around the world), and arctic sea ice will become a figment of our collective imagination by as early as 2015.
Tuvalu asked to suspend sessions last week to when it appeared that its proposal for a second legally binding treaty to complement Kyoto and meet 350 ppm targets was being sidelined. See Tuvalu’s emotional plea and scooping of the moral high ground here: http://us.oneworld.net/article/368325-tuvalu-fate-my-country-rests-your-hands
This intervention created a rift among developing nations – the AOSIS countries have nothing to lose but their lives, while larger, increasingly economically prosperous nations like China don’t want to retard economic growth (China’s has put reductions in carbon intensity of 40% by 2020 on the table- but this is not absolute emissions reduction).
Another key issue that is still being discussed is the level of financing that the developed world will channel to the developing world to help support sustainable development, and crucially to help countries adapt to climate change (the effects of which many are already feeling). See here for some numbers on what is at stake from the World Humanitarian Forum in Geneva:
The developing world believes that reparation payments should be made for the damage being caused by climate change – so the money should be granted, not loaned. The developing world also want $200 billion a year in additional climate assistance (so not repackaged aid money), not the roughly $10 billion that is currently being offered.
Today, African nations walked out and refused to continue talks unless the Kyoto Protocol track is prioritized over the LCA. Sessions have since resumed. Listen to Nnimmo Bassey’s thoughts from Friends of the Earth here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_gn98Uvw3w
Over the weekend, we saw the greatest distributed global climate demonstration ever, with over 1 million people sending out a strong and clear message to leaders, demanding a 350 ppm deal with up to $400 billion long term adaptation aid to the developing world and a legally binding treaty for all big emitters. According to the Grist.org blog, the grassroots have spoken, helping to reframe the discussions so that 450 ppm or 2 degrees C now seems like 2nd choice.
There will likely be continued posturing and delegate walk outs through the week, with outcomes decided in the 11th hour. We are hoping that the global call for 350ppm will get through to negotiators, and that we will have a continued, tougher Kyoto Protocol and a new global accord involving big developing world emitters with tough reduction targets at the other end of the tunnel.
Check out 350.org to join the 350 movement and please stay up to date on what’s going on in Copenhagen on the tcktcktck.org website (with live streaming).
P.S. Our favorite quote of the summit so far comes from the Pablo Solon, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, venting his frustrations on the negotiating process and referring to the earlier ‘leaked’ Danish document:
“We are asking for a transparent democratic and inclusive process. It seems negotiators are living in the Matrix, while the real negotiation is taking place in the ‘Green room,’ in small stealth dinners with selective guests.”
“The presidency of the UNFCCC says that its informal consultations will be based on regional participation, but have not indicated how these will be chosen. They are creating an undemocratic parallel process where they can pick and choose only some countries.”
“It seems the only ones who have taken the “red pill” and are aware of the reality are those who marched in the streets on Saturday, who have denounced the rich countries for trying to stitch a deal that will undermine their obligation to tackle this urgent climate crisis.”
It’s time to respond to the unlawful hacking of the University of East Anglia’s email servers and the media firestorm that has resulted from the unethical distortion of single sentences and words extracted from thousands of emails between brilliant climate scientists who have devoted their entire lives to the empirical study of climate change.
So, the word ‘trick’ appeared in an email, in reference to climate scenario modelling, and the media pounced. Can the public really be so uncritical to believe that three decades of work from thousands of scientists all over the world is a hoax? Who, exactly, would be running and financing this climate science hoax? What about the billions of dollars pumped into the fossil fuel and climate denier lobby and PR campaigns designed to sow doubt on climate science consensus? Would civic and industry leaders from around the world have demanded that policy makers respond to global warming, and would these policy makers be meeting right now in Copenhagen to craft this response if climate change were not real?
In a way, activists should be thankful for the media storm around climate science. The frame of a storyline actually helps us to capture people’s attention and throw light on the huge body of work that documents climate change.
None of the emails actually detract from the science that shows a long term trend in warming or the fact that Greenhouse Gases (magically increasing in the atmosphere? we don’t think so) have been steadily rising in atmospheric concentration since the start of the Industrial Revolution. None of the emails contain positive proof that humans are NOT causing global warming. Therefore they only seem to detract from the credibility of the climate denier camp that has launched such a pathetic and predictable smear campaign. (*Note - The resulting meltdown certainly also detracts from the PR credentials of the scientific community. Talk about mismanagement! PR People - Please offer some pro bono support to scientists!)
Furthermore, if anything, the emails (sent over many years) reinforce what makes the scientific community’s peer review methods so strong – data is constantly under rigorous review and constantly updated. They show how scientists are spending millions of hours refining the science that underpins an overwhelming consensus and debating the many uncertainties about climate feedbacks that are openly reported on, not fabricating false evidence. Again, this lame attempt to unravel the scientific method itself only emphasises the lack of peer-reviewed, consensus based evidence from climate deniers, who incidentally do not share the scientific community’s values of transparency and objectivity.
Why has the media not focused on exposing the hackers’ motives? And furthermore, why has no one held the media accountable to sensationalist mis-reporting? Let us also just remind ourselves, by the way, that stealing emails is a crime. Will the perpetrators be prosecuted? Where is the check and balance in this whole drama?
The science doesn’t need defending – the motives behind this debacle need highlighting. Whoever is behind the hackings has chosen an obvious moment to launch a fatuous attack on climate science consensus to undermine the political process at COP15, and there is something huge at stake – the will of the public being brainwashed by poor reporting. We so urgently need the public’s voice demanding change and a solution at this critical moment.
‘Climate-gate’ infuriates us. The truth is that climate change is happening all around us – we can all observe it in glaciers melting, the ice caps thinning, sustained droughts, sea level rise and species extinction. We beg you: look the climate crisis in the face and respect what is happening around the world, affecting the livelihoods and health of millions of the world’s poorest people. Watch Moses Mopel Kisosion talking about the effects that climate change is having on the way of life of his people, the Massai, so inextricably linked to the natural world and to natural cycles. Will these ways of life disappear, as the planet pushes us away?
Back from Copenhagen today. The Planet Positive 2020 Vision screening was a success, but our visit to the Klimaforum far too short – almost heartbreaking to leave the climate high. We captured some incredible visions from people from all corners of the globe. Highlights were definitely Moses Mopel Kisosion, a Massai man from Kenya, Roz Savage, British ocean rower, and Irma Poma Canchumani, an indigenous Andean woman from Peru. Check them out here: www.planet-positive/vision2020.
The atmosphere at the Klimaforum was bristling, electric – imagine thousands of people coming together with an intense desire for real system change and an ambitious, fair, and legally binding global climate deal. We caught presentations from top climate scientists, urging politicians to incorporate alarming recent findings into the political process, spiritual leaders, discussing how to reach and move people’s hearts, and representatives from African communities explaining sustainable agricultural methods (Klimaforum Program here). Perhaps one of the most inspiring sights were the banks of activists hacking away at their laptops, reporting/blogging/tweeting back to their communities around the world and spurring on a nearly palpable surge of civil society will.
We’ll be spreading the visions we collected and putting these desires out there in the universe - please add yours to the mix. Meanwhile at the Bella Center, the negotiations continue. Even though we don’t have great expectations for 350 ppm commitments, witnessing the thousands of people in Copenhagen who care so deeply about the future of the planet was nourishment enough for the next rally, and the next.