Mexico conference 'has got to achieve'

1st December 2009
Press Release

Mexico conference 'has got to achieve' FRANK McDONALD and HARRY McGEE in Copenhagen- Irish Times Monday 21st December 2009

ANALYSIS: NEXT YEAR’S global climate conference in Mexico “has got to achieve . . . all the things we were supposed to achieve here”, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said in the wake of the Copenhagen summit’s failure to reach agreement.

Mr de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was speaking after the conclusion of a marathon all-night session at which delegates merely noted – but did not adopt – a controversial document called the Copenhagen Accord.

Its terms had been hammered out late on Friday by a small group of world leaders: US president Barack Obama, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Indian premier Dr Manmohan Singh and South African president Jacob Zuma.

Under their deal, the aim would be to keep the rise in average global temperatures below two degrees, but without specifying targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by developed and major developing countries either in the medium or longer term.

Instead, they would all report on their progress in cutting emissions, while developed countries would provide $30 billion (€20.6 billion) in aid for poorer nations to cope with climate change between 2010 and 2012, rising to as much as $100 billion a year by 2020.

The deal was greeted with dismay and anger by environmental and development aid organisations as well as by a large number of developing countries, whose representatives denounced it at the final plenary session, which opened at 4.15am on Saturday.

The loudest protests were made by Venezuela, Sudan, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu, the tiny Pacific island state which fears it could be wiped out by rising sea levels. Sudan’s ambassador, Stanislaus Lumumba, said it was “an invitation to Africa to sign a suicide pact”.

When it was clear that no consensus would be reached, conference president and Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Britain’s climate and energy secretary, Ed Miliband, proposed an adjournment for consultations to resolve the impasse.

When the session resumed at 9.30am, tired and bleary-eyed delegates agreed to “note” the Copenhagen Accord . They had been told by Mr Rasmussen and Mr Miliband that this needed to be done to “operationalise” the release of new funding.

The US, Saudi Arabia and others opposed a proposal by Barbados that the 16th climate conference in Mexico should conclude a legally binding agreement aimed at reducing global emissions, although an interim negotiating session is to be held in Bonn next June.

Robert Bailey of Oxfam International said it was “shameful” that world leaders – 119 of whom had come to Copenhagen – did not deliver more.

“In the early hours of the morning any hopes of a legally binding deal were stripped out too,” he said. “We must be honest about what we have got,” Mr de Boer said later. “The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal. But clearly ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to hold the world to two degrees.”

Kim Christiansen of the World Wildlife Fund said the deal “cooked up by a small number of countries doesn’t meet any of the conditions” for averting dangerous climate change. Its only positive aspect was that it might help to pass new climate change legislation in the US.

An exasperated Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International, described Copenhagen as a “climate crime scene . . . with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame”. The deal world leaders had produced was “full of loopholes”.

A US think tank, the Post Carbon Institute, blamed Mr Obama, saying “the so-called Copenhagen Accord is merely the repackaging of old and toothless promises, which holds no one accountable and utterly fails to reflect the urgency of the moment at hand”.

Sorley McCaughey of Christian Aid said all countries needed to “look hard at themselves and think about how to reinvigorate this international process. In particular, rich countries must increase the level of their ambition when they return to the negotiating table.”

The Irish Times - Monday, December 21, 2009