Welsh Green Dragon

Copenhagen – Was a legally binding treaty always expecting too much? by Chris Halpin

So it’s all over and descended into absolute chaos, but is it really that suprising? It wasn’t only inside that things started to take a turn for the worse last week, as talks stalled police and activists clashed on the streets surrounding the Bella Centre in Copenhagen.

It now transpires that China chucked the largest spanner in the works and is getting most of the blame for the demise of COP15, alongside America who according to Gordon Brown, showed a lack of ‘ambition’. Without the superpowers agreeing to anything meaningful or tangible, the weak agreement that has been signed could place a legally binding deal in serious jeopardy. When world leaders were gathered at the summit on Friday to ‘sign’ on the dotted line, in fact they were thrashing out a weaker international consensus which merely capped global temperature rise by 2 degrees and agreed remuneration packages and aid for countries who face the immediate onslaught of climate change.

Here’s the Channel 4 news coverage from last night. Keep watching as the live interview between Ed Miliband and George Monbiot is particularly compelling – it starts just before the 4 minute mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Crucially, no date was set for a peak in carbon emissions, no date was set for any of it to become legally binding, nor were any international emissions targets defined. However much activism and pressure was placed upon world leaders to reach a deal, could we really have expected anything more in just two weeks? Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband are now insistent that the procedural process for the talks must change, as negotiations involving 193 separate countries made for a diplomatic nightmare.

They say that some of the smaller nations were effectively holding the whole summit to ransom, as talks stalled last week for hours at a time when smaller countries threw their toys out of the pram over the developed world not taking enough responsibility for their historical carbon emissions. This meant hours of precious negotiating was wasted and talks had to continue until well after midnight on a number of occasions to make up for lost time. It was also probably part of the reason why a hurried and weaker agreement was signed in the dying moments of the conference so that the fortnight’s talks were not deemed as a total failure. This certainly needs to be addressed in time for next years summit in Mexico, as although it is commendable that the UN ensures every nation has its chance to speak, this is evidently not the forum in which such a discussion should take place. How can a fortnight’s worth of negotiating be enough to hear each and every one of the 193 countries represented, with over 25,000 delegates in attendance, with such an emotive issue on the negotiating table?

This can be demonstrated by last-minute comments made by the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who likened the final accord to the Holocaust. This was quickly denounced by European leaders and however inappropriate it shows the frustrations of the G77 and developing world that the richer nations could not get together to agree lasting targets based upon their previous behaviour.

Last week saw Carwyn Jones on behalf of the Welsh Assembly pledge to help the Mbale region of Uganda prepare for climate change, but unfortunately this is small fry on such an international stage. Such measures should be adopted by other larger developed nations rather than keeping their own interests top priority. This is only demonstrated by China, America, South Africa, India and Brazil breaking away from the main talks to forge a watered down strategy that better suited their economies rather than the environment or consideration of the most vulnerable of nations.

So what will happen now? Well it’s important that international momentum does not falter in the hangover of the conference, although this looks bound to happen. Also, does achieving this ‘weak’ agreement stand in the way of further definition of a legally binding political treaty? With talk of countries making voluntary targets, it’s no wonder the developing nations kicked up so much of a stink in the first week of the summit that the Kyoto agreement should still stand. Just because COP15 is over, it does not remove the obvious challenges we face with Climate Change. World leaders seem to have sidestepped the main issues and chosen short-term gain over long-term probability. It is now back in the hands of NGO’s, International Environment groups and campaigners to lobby world leaders to pull their proverbial fingers out, as there certainly is no planet b.


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[…] protected their economic growth at the expense of the safety of much of the planet. This came as no surprise to anyone with any kind of anti-capitalist critique, there are no solutions to the crisis that can […]

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