Copenhagen Accord marks new starting point for global fight against climate change 2009-12-26 13:50:24   Print

    BRUSSELS, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- Following hard negotiations, the UN climate change conference adopted the Copenhagen Accord, which was hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as "a significant step forward" in the global fight against climate change.

    The five-page document manifested the strong determination by countries, rich or poor, to save our warming planet, embodied broad consensus of the international community on further efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and marked a new starting point for negotiations on fighting global warming.     


    With the participation of more than 190 countries, the Copenhagen conference had been designed to hammer out a global deal on climate change after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

    From the very beginning, the negotiations were deadlocked due to sharp differences between developed and developing countries. One of the sticking points was whether to continue talks on double tracks, i.e. both under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol.

    The Kyoto Protocol established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, while developing countries may implement national mitigation actions on voluntary basis.

    While developing countries insisted on the two-track approach, developed countries were trying to throw away the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with a new single deal. Their real intention was to dodge their mandatory obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and force developing countries to do more, which ran counter to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

    Djemouh Kamel, chairperson of the African group at the summit, warned that to kill the Kyoto Protocol was to kill Africa, noting that developed countries had agreed in Bali of Indonesia two years ago upon the two-track negotiation mechanism.

    Thanks to the joint push by developing countries, the Copenhagen Accord upheld the double-track mechanism, which would serve the basis for further negotiations.

    "We emphasize our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," the accord said.     


    Under the UN convention and its Kyoto Protocol, developed countries committed themselves to a collective greenhouse gas emission target of 5.2 percent lower from the 1990 levels by 2012,while developing countries are required to adopt national mitigation actions on voluntary basis.

    In Copenhagen, developed countries tried to mix up the different requirements and press developing countries, especially emerging economies, also to accept mandatory targets.

    "Developed nations cannot impose the same kind of obligations on developing nations, because it is unfair and unequal," said Roni Ajao, special technical assistant to Nigeria's environment minister, in an interview with Xinhua.

    While reiterating the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the Copenhagen Accord maintained different requirements for developed and developing countries.

    As agreed in the accord, developed countries, for the first time including the U.S., should commit to achieve individually or jointly the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020; while developing countries are also urged to implement mitigation actions.     


    How much can the global temperature rise without serious environmental consequences? When should the emissions be peaked? As scientific research has different interpretations, views of different countries also varied.

    Some developed countries led by the European Union (EU) insisted the increase of global temperature should be capped at two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

    Meanwhile, island countries and some African countries, which are the most vulnerable to global warming, called at the conference for a maximum rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. They also demanded global emissions peak by 2015.

    A lower cap on temperature rise and an earlier deadline for emission peak mean deeper cuts should be made.

    However, unlike developed countries which have already completed industrialization, many developing countries face the urgent task to develop and reduce poverty. A right balance between reduction and development should be found.

    Taking into account the particular concern of vulnerable countries, the Copenhagen Accord, for the first time, recognized the scientific view that "the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius."

    But it also acknowledged the time frame for peaking would be longer in developing countries, and stressed "social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries."     


    At the Copenhagen conference, developed countries and developing ones also wrangled over the issues of financial support and transparency of mitigation measures.

    Developing countries said rich nations were historically responsible for global warming, so the financial support they provided to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change should not be considered a favor.

    "Let's not think that they (developed countries) are giving something to us that we are begging for. The money that will be put on the table is the payment of greenhouse gas emissions that were made over two centuries," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told the conference.

    While reluctant to make financial commitments, developed countries had tried to link the issue of money with transparency, forcing developing countries to accept international monitoring of their national mitigation actions.

    The move was rejected by developing countries for fear of intrusion on national sovereignty.

    "These papers cannot threaten the individual sovereignty of each country; each country has to have the competence to do its own oversight," Lula said.

    In the Copenhagen Accord, developed countries, for the first time, released figures for their medium-term financial support to developing countries.

    "Developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly 100billion U.S. dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries," the accord said.

    On transparency, the accord said mitigation actions taken by developing countries would be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification.

    But as a compromise, developing countries are expected to provide information on the implementation of their actions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines which would make sure that national sovereignty is respected.

    Although the Copenhagen Accord is simply a political agreement rather than a legally-binding one, falling short of expectations, UN's Ban said it was a significant step toward a binding treaty.

    "It is not perfect at this time, but it was a very important and very significant step forward," he said. 

Special report: Global Climate Change

Editor: Lin Zhi
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