The latest from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, December 7-18

21 Dec 2009

Fallout from Copenhagen
Felt in Businesses and World Capitals

Reverberations from the disappointing Copenhagen climate summit continued to be felt worldwide, with political leaders blaming each other for the meeting’s outcome, U.S. senators saying that the lack of progress will make it harder for Congress to pass a climate bill, European Union carbon prices falling, and some businesses lamenting the continuing lack of uncertainty about future CO2 cuts and carbon prices.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown told an environmental meeting on Monday that a handful of countries blocked a legally binding deal on climate change, adding, “We will not allow a few countries to hold us back. What
Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband
happened at Copenhagen was a flawed decision-making process. We’ve just got to find a way of moving this process forward.” Although Brown did not mention any countries by name, Ed Miliband, Climate Change and Energy Secretary, specifically mentioned China, noting that it had vetoed proposals calling for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and an 80 percent cut in emissions by developed nations by mid-century. Miliband said China exercised its veto despite support for the proposal by a broad coalition of industrialized nations and the vast majority of developing nations.

Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official signaled that the country would continue to take a tough stance in climate talks, saying the nation’s right to develop was at stake.

“The diplomatic and political wrangling over climate change that is opening up will be focused on the right to develop and space to develop,” said Yi Xianliang of the Foreign Ministry. He said the blame for lack of progress in Copenhagen lay with the industrialized nations, which “retreated from their stances and positions, and then sought to shift the blame to developing countries, especially the big emerging powers.” China’s Premier Wen Jiabao praised the accord, saying, “It was a result that came from hard work on all sides, was accepted by all, didn’t come easy, and should be treasured.”

The accord reached Friday and Saturday is a political declaration in which countries set-out non-binding emissions targets and agreed to create a fund to help developing countries adapt to global warming and adopt renewable energy technology. No future timetable was set to try to forge an agreement on binding emissions reductions. Read the full text of the accord.

More from Yale e360

Copenhagen: Things Fall Apart
and Uncertainty Looms

The Copenhagen summit turned out to be little more than a charade, Bill McKibben writes, as the major nations refused to make firm commitments or even engage in an honest discussion of the consequences of failing to act.

Looking for a Silver Lining
in the Post-Summit Landscape

Much was left undone in Copenhagen, and the many loopholes in the climate accord could lead to rising emissions. But Fred Pearce writes that the conference averted disaster by keeping the UN climate negotiations alive.
U.S senators of both parties said the lack of progress on setting firm emissions reductions targets would make passage of a carbon cap-and-trade bill more difficult when the Senate debates the legislation in earnest early next year. Some Democratic senators from industrial states said they would find it difficult to vote for a bill placing a cap and a price on carbon if other economic powers — most notably China — continued to spew an increasing amount of CO2 into the air and not establish cap-and-trade mechanisms of their own. “We want to be sure we’re not adding yet another cost impact that other countries don’t have to shoulder,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told the Web site Politico. The House of Representatives has already narrowly passed cap-and-trade legislation.

Prices on the European Union’s carbon exchange took their sharpest drop since February, declining nearly 9 percent to 12.40 Euros per ton. Traders said a significant reason for the drop was that the Copenhagen summit did not set emissions reductions targets, which would have boosted demand for the permits.

Globally, some business leaders expressed disappointment that that the summit failed to bring any clarity to the key issue of setting targets — and hence a price — on carbon dioxide emissions. Many business people and analysts said that a binding treaty on emissions cuts would have created a level playing field for renewable energy technologies. “If we’d had bankable emissions reductions targets for 2020, it would have given a stronger price signal for carbon,” said Joan McNaughton, senior vice president for power and environmental policies at Alstom Power SA, an engineering company working on carbon capture and sequestration. Richard Gledhill, head of carbon markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said, “It’s very frustrating at this stage that we haven’t gotten a more comprehensive agreement.”


Limited Agreement is Reached
as Copenhagen Summit Comes to an End

In a last-minute flurry of diplomatic activity, President Obama managed to piece together a limited agreement that falls short of even the modest expectations for the Copenhagen summit.

Clinton Promises Climate Aid;
Leaked UN Report Sees 3 C of Warming

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton injected new life into the talks Thursday as she pledged U.S. support for a fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

Deals on Aid and Forests
Reported Close to Completion at Talks

With only two full days remaining at the Copenhagen climate summit, negotiators said they were close to reaching agreement on a pair of key issues.

De Boer Calls for Action
as Talks Bog Down Over Key Issues

A large bloc of developing nations called a halt to a half-day walkout on Monday, ending a protest over moves by the world’s industrialized nations to abandon the Kyoto protocol.

Developing Nations End Walkout
After Protesting Plans to Scrap Kyoto

A large bloc of developing nations called a halt to a half-day walkout on Monday, ending a protest over moves by the world’s industrialized nations to abandon the Kyoto protocol.

The Wide Gap Between
Climate Rhetoric and Reality

As the UN conference enters its second and decisive week, Bill McKibben writes that calls for strong global action to deal with climate change do not appear to be penetrating inside Copenhagen’s Bella Center.

Draft Climate Treaty Released;
EU Pledge of Funds Angers Poorer Nations

Negotiators released a six-page draft of a climate treaty Friday that calls for limiting global temperature increases to 2.7 to 3.6 degrees F and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2050.

Obama Calls for Carbon Dioxide Cuts;
De Boer Sees Progress on Green-Tech Plan

Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, President Obama said failing to address global warming could lead to growing conflict in the world as rising temperatures cause climate-related upheaval and an increase in natural disasters.

U.S. Vows Sharp Cut in CO2 Emissions,
But Will Not Pay Climate ‘Reparations’

Delegates from developing nations were reportedly incensed after reading a leaked document purporting to show that a group of wealthy nations intends to sideline the UN in future climate change negotiations — and place CO2 emissions restrictions on poorer nations.

Leaked Text Causes Uproar;
EU Withdraws Emissions Offer

Delegates from developing nations were reportedly incensed after reading a leaked document purporting to show that a group of wealthy nations intends to sideline the UN in future climate change negotiations — and place CO2 emissions restrictions on poorer nations.

Copenhagen Summit Opens
as U.S. Unveils Controls on CO2

On the opening day of the climate talks, the Obama administration signaled to the world that the U.S. plans to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions even if Congress fails to pass climate legislation next year.


A Sense of Déjà Vu in Denmark?
Twelve years ago in Kyoto, the world was poised to act on a climate treaty but looked for a clear signal from the United States. At the Copenhagen talks, Bill McKibben writes, the outcome once again hinges on what the U.S. is prepared to do.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis:
Sobering Update on the Science

A new update on the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that ice at both poles is melting faster than predicted, claims of recent global cooling are wrong — and that world leaders must act fast if steep temperature rises are to be avoided.

As Copenhagen Talks Near,
What Are Prospects for Success?

Ten environmental leaders and climate experts outline for Yale Environment 360 what they believe can still be accomplished at Copenhagen.

Amid Mounting Pessimism,
A Voice of Hope for Copenhagen

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he is “cautiously optimistic” that a treaty can still be signed in Copenhagen.

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