By Matthew Knott in Copenhagen

After two weeks of around the clock negotiations and the participation of over a hundred of world leaders, the Copenhagen climate change summit has ended in failure, producing a flimsy political agreement far weaker than even the most pessimistic observers expected at the start of the talks.

The agreement – hastily cobbled together on the last day of the talks by 28 nations, including host Denmark, the US and Australia – drew fierce criticism by developing countries left out of the meetings, claiming rich countries had staged a “coup détat” of the UN process.

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Tuvalu, Venezuela, Bolivia and several African nations had already signalled in the final official plenary session that they would not support the accord. If the deal dies on the UN conference floor – as it will if only one nation votes against it – then it esentially amounts to a glorified press release.  At the time of writing it appears, after an objection by Nicaragua, that the accord will be included with the other texts as a mere “informal” or “miscellaneous” document.

Copenhagen was supposed to lay the foundations for a new international climate change treaty to be signed in Mexico next year – one that would, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, include the pledges of the world´s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, the US and China, in a legally-binding agreement.

But, in a decision that has already infuriated environmentalists around the world, the “Copenhagen Accord” does not include any mandate, or even an aspiration, to ever develop a new legally-binding climate change treaty.

The accord commits nations to keeping the global temperature rise to under two degrees, but does not specify the level of emissions reductions that will be needed to achieve this goal. A leaked UN analysis yesterday revealed that the targets currently on the table would lead to a temperature rise of over 3 degrees.

The final agreement represents a significant watering down of draft texts leaked to the media during the final day of the summit. One draft committed developed nations, as a group, to reducing their emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Another included the goal of signing a legally-binging treaty at COP16 in Mexico. Both of these commitments were cut out of the final version.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said eleventh hour negotiations over the text by world leaders including himself, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy, had saved the summit from “catastrophic collapse”.

We have achieved genuine progress and a genuine step forward,” he told reporters. “This is the first time ever developed and developing nations have committed to a two degree Celsius rise.”

The agreement also includes the promise of mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries’ mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The willingness of developing nations to open their overseas-sponsored emissions reduction activities to oversight by international bodies was also a breakthrough, he said.

The annex of the agreement lists an emissions reduction pledge of Australia of 5 to 15 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020. Mr Rudd said the final target would be announced by February.

US President Barack Obama arrived in Copenhagen early Saturday morning and quickly joined drafting discussions with other world leaders. Neither the Premier of China, nor the Prime Minister of India attended these meetings, sending diplomats and ambassadors instead.

During the afternoon Obama then held meetings with the “Basic Group” – China, India, Brasil and South Africa – who eventually agreed to sign the accord.

President Obama described the accord as a “meaningful and unprecedented” agreement to tackle climate change. Both he and Mr Rudd admitted that much work will be needed in coming years to bring commitments in line with what the science demands to avoid disastrous global warming.

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said: “Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Justice has not been done. By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates.”


Chief negotiator for the G77 group of developing nations, Lumumba Di-Aping, said the Copenhagen Accord represented a “gross violation of the tradition of the United Nations” and “locks developing nations into poverty forever”.
Don Henry, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said:  “The Copenhagenhagen deal is disappointingly weak and falls well short of a treaty that will avoid dangerous climate change and needs serious world…these negotiations should be suspended and world leaders should come together in the new year to get it right.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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