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Climate Talks End In “Copenhagen Accord”; Countries Settle On Non- Binding 2 ºC Warming Limit

by Jack Rosebro

Following an all-night session that sent two weeks of climate talks into overtime, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 15th Conference Of Parties (COP 15) yesterday tentatively approved a non-binding, three-page political statement that had been hashed out the previous night in face-to-face meetings between leaders of Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the UK, and the United States at the Bella Centre near the Copenhagen airport.

The accord calls for action to hold mean warming of the Earth’s surface to no more than 2 ºC above pre-industrial levels, but does not define reductions in greenhouse gases that might be employed to achieve that goal. Although it was hoped that the 113 attending world leaders would be greeted towards the end of the Copenhagen summit by a draft text with no more than two or three issues outstanding, almost two hundred remained by Friday.

As heads of state convened, an abbreviated document was hurriedly produced to minimize sticking points and shopped around among leaders of developed countries. With the clock running out on final negotiations—in part due to the timetable required to fly US President Barack Obama back to Washington ahead of a heavy snowstorm—key statements were rapidly deleted from the document, much to the dismay of European leaders, including an agreement among developed countries to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, as compared to 1990 emissions, by year 2050.

Quizzed by The Observer as to which country had objected to the 2050 target, director-general of Sweden’s Naturvårdsverket (Environmental Protection Agency) Lars-Erik Liljelund quipped, “China. China doesn’t like numbers.” Already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases by most accounts, China may have been looking to future negotiations, when it is likely to be categorized as a developed rather than developing country.

Another prerequisite lost in the final process was the stipulation that the principles of the accord be embedded in a treaty at some point in the future. Although many leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, had campaigned for the transformation of the Copenhagen Accord into a binding international treaty within six months, the timetable was pushed back to twelve months (COP 16, in México), according to an early draft of the accord, before eventually being deleted altogether.

After presidents, premiers, and prime ministers departed, COP 15 reconvened so that delegates could vote on the accord. By daybreak Saturday, however, talks were deadlocked as delegates from developing countries expressed outrage at being shut out of the draft consultation, and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who was presiding over the session, signaled that he would call COP 15 to a close without agreement.

Diplomats were recalled from their hotels to block the move, and Rasmussen instead called a brief adjournment following intervention by UK Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband, as well as Australian and US officials.

Rasmussen, who had succeeded Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard as COP President just two days prior, was quickly replaced by Philip Weech, Director of the Bahamas Environment, Science, and Technology Commission. Weech secured consensus before mid-morning by calling a vote to “take note” of the accord, rather than approve it.

In the end, 188 countries voted in favor of the motion, with Cuba, Bolivia, Sudan, and Venezuela voting against it. The accord will not become an official United Nations document unless unanimous approval is secured.

Emissions Reduction Targets Shuttled To The Side

The formal acknowledgement of the Copenhagen Accord ended a particularly contentious and chaotic set of negotiations, ostensibly capping more than a decade of deliberations towards a framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions beyond the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Although hundreds of issues had remained outstanding as COP 15 talks got underway, most of them revolved around five core goals:

  • Developed countries, including the United States, would agree on short-term emissions reduction targets which would collectively define the peaking of global greenhouse emissions.

  • Developed countries would reach agreement with emerging economies such as Brazil, China, and India as to whether or not emerging economies should set emissions reduction targets.

  • Finance structures would be created and funded by developed countries, encouraging developing countries and emerging economies to minimize future emissions and adapt to future effects of climate change.

  • The relative valuation of potential emissions offsets (e.g. afforestation, avoided deforestation, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency measures, renewable energy generation) would be established.

  • All agreements would be legally binding, and would be subject to independent verification.

However, two additional issues emerged early to shape the talks. Spurred by a leaked draft treaty which sought to cancel the commitments of the last two years of the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries dug in, concerned that developed countries were planning to introduce the draft, known as the “Danish text”, toward the end of the conference, thereby undermining gains already won.

Developed countries quickly distanced themselves from the draft, but discussions of whether or not a Copenhagen treaty should replace the Kyoto Protocol engulfed many sessions, and consumed almost a week of negotiating time.

The second issue was the initial rejection of the 2 ºC maximal warming limit by member states most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, primarily because observational data subsequent to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which had cited the 2 ºC guardrail (earlier post) as a prudent limit, has indicated that a lower maximal warming limit may be required to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. In particular, the small island nation of Tuvalu briefly put a stop to negotiations after then-COP President Connie Hedegaard declined to consider the target as well as require a binding treaty by summit’s end.

Although the Copenhagen Accord has failed to deliver tangible progress on major issues, it commits agreeing parties to a 31 January 2010 deadline by which they would submit national emissions reduction goals. For developed countries, specific reduction targets as well as the reference year used to calculate those targets must be provided; for developing countries, including emerging economies, actions to reduce emissions must be submitted, but do not have to be quantified.

The accord also sketches out the financing of climate mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries, much of which was separately offered by developed countries in parallel with the climate talks.

Support for such measures is defined in the accord as “approaching USD 30 billion” during the 2010-2012 period, and scaling up to USD 100 billion per year by 2020. Financing of adaptive measures would be prioritized for the most vulnerable countries, such as small island states and sub-Saharan African nations. In a nod to deteriorating support among developing countries for the 2 ºC target, the Copenhagen Accord also recommends “consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science” by 2015, “including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

One US non-negotiable in Copenhagen—which it failed to secure—was the insistence that China and India submit to independent verification of claimed emissions reductions. President Obama later distanced himself from that requirement, remarking afterward “we can actually monitor a lot of what takes place through satellite imagery and so forth... I think we’re going to have a pretty good sense of what countries are doing.”

“We must be honest about what we have got”, said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer. “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 2 degrees.”

Comments

sulleny

OMG, what a fiasco. And collosal waste of money - especially U.S. taxpayer money given to hands-out climate researchers. History will show an amusing episode when a bunch of social marxists attempted to extort trillions of dollars from the developed world under the guise of environmental disaster.

Fortunately sober minds have prevailed and we can now get on with the serious business of energy independence. The real world leader in that appears to be France. Their investment in nuclear energy 30 years or so ago is proving to be very wise. France will be able to convert their entire transportation fleet to EVs without drilling or tearing apart mountains or importing fossil fuel.

The U.S. continues to lead in technology with the first mass produced PHEV and expansion of practical biofuels. Electrification of the U.S. fleet will progress faster than predictions due to desire (by majority) to end wars in Middle East.

Climategate, the whistle that put the nail in the AGW coffin - will prove that dishonest science and those who attempt to use it to forward political agendas - will not be tolerated in real democracies. RIP Climate Change.

HarveyD

As usual, the majority is more reactive than proactive and our eyes are still wide shut.

We need major floods, more storms, higher seas, larger deserts in USA, China, India and Africa etc before or eyes start to see what is going on.

It may take another 2 or 3 generations before the message penetrates deep enough.

Treehugger

Sulleny

Asides of your BS of comment, France import 100% of its uranium so I don't call it "energy independence" soon Uranium will be as much as a problem as oil.

Harvey you are more realistic in term of timelines when it comes to public acceptance of AWG than for EV and PHEV, I think both will walk at the same pace...

sulleny

Of course the huge elephant in the room is the advent of new physics like LENR and other stuff. These highly disruptive technologies will appear if movement to non-fossil energy sources is impeded or obfuscated.

Tree - you are right that uranium is imported but it is clear we have plenty to power portions of demand for a century at least. By them non-radiative new energy sources will be on line.

Harvey, why must we have apocalypse to take any action? If it's population that you're really concerned with (and should be) why not educate people instead of terrify them?

HarveyD

sulleny:

The introduction of affordable PHEVs and BEVs could be well under way by 2020, if enough resources are available and used to advance e-storage units performance.

Energy and power density will improve significantly during the next decade. Cost will come down three or four folds with worldwide mass production, standardization and competition.

Modular plug-in batteries will promote the production of much lower cost PHEVs and BEVs, better matched to users requirement and pocket book. Users will be able to start with a cheaper 10-mile PHEV and add more battery modules latter on to progress to 20, 30, 40, 50+ miles PHEV when they can affort it.

Mark_BC

"We need major floods, more storms, higher seas, larger deserts in USA, China, India and Africa etc before or eyes start to see what is going on."

Unfortunately by then it will be too late. By the time sea levels rise visibly for people to notice, we will have committed ourselves to catastrophic runaway melting where we could expect sea levels to rise 10 m, maybe more. We are already well on our way to this point, arctic sea ice has declined by about 30% over the last 30 years, much more rapidly recently, and most people envision an ice free arctic in 10-20 years or so. Of course right next door is Greenland.
__________________________________________________

"Climategate, the whistle that put the nail in the AGW coffin - will prove that dishonest science and those who attempt to use it to forward political agendas - will not be tolerated in real democracies. RIP Climate Change."

I'm getting tired of listening to how the leaked emails prove that AGW is a sham. No one actually goes through the emails thoroughly and explains how this is so. I have only been able to find one thorough analysis of the emails, from NewsWeek, and they basically say that it appears that the scientists didn't actually do anything wrong.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/226398/page/1

The idea that Climategate dismisses concerns over AGW is absolutely ridiculous, and speaks more to the gullibility of people who latch on to whatever thread of hope they can find in order to confirm their previous beliefs.

If anything, Climategate proves beyond any doubt that there is not any conspiracy going on amongst scientists. These emails expose the heart and guts of some of the scientists who were the targets of anti-AGW slandering. So where are all the emails linking Al Gore as the ring leader, pulling the strings of all his minion scientist followers? Where is the evidence of the grand conspiracy to steal your money? What we have is a handful of emails taken over a 13 year period which show some scientists being real pricks, expressing their extreme dislike towards AGW deniers, and suggesting, unsuccessfully, to keep certain articles out of the IPCC reports, and also using words like "trick" and "real temperature data" which have been misrepresented in the blogosphere as proof that scientists are doctoring the data, when in fact those terms are not in any way misleading, but simply lingo that statisticians use to refer to certain techniques for making graphs.

Move on people. Look at the facts.

sulleny

It is pointless to make excuses for Climategate behavior:

"Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.

We will be getting Caspar to do likewise." PJones.

And avoiding lawful FOI requests with various ruses. It makes the entire field of climate research look corrupt to excuse this behavior.

Kelly

Sulleny, the article wasn't about your so-called "Climategate".

But if you want to read about that, be my guest:

http://factcheck.org/2009/12/climategate/

And if you want to make an FOI request, start here:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/legal/foi.html

sulleny

Already been there:

Mr. Henig's (factcheck)essay positions itself as a defense attorney would to convince readers that malfeasance is really just good old "scientist rough housing."

Tell that to the Associate General Council of the DOE who has issued a "Litigation Hold Notice" to some 8,000 employees of the Department of Energy relevant to data, correspondence and materials related to “global warming, the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia In England, and/or climate change science.” To be extended to other Federal Departments and Agencies.

Or to the Norwich Police Department now burdened with an official investigation of the leak/hack inclusive of each email content and content of any un-leaked correspondence, notes, data sets and code as accessory evidence to a crime scene.

Or to Senator Jeffrey Piccola, Chair of the Penn Senate Education Committee has recommended funding withheld until an official investigation of Penn State University's Earth System Science Center and Dr. Mann is complete.

Or Sir Muir Russell who heads the investigation of University East Anglia's CRU as to:

• Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.
• Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.
• Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.
• Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

Or U.S. Senator Inhofe who has begun a Congressional investigation of Climategate evidence via the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Or to dyed-in-wool AGW champion, George Monbiot who writes in his Guardian column:

"Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial... The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people's denial.

Pretending that this isn't a real crisis isn't going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We'll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again."

The FOI deception was the work of the CRU clan, not Metoffice.


Mark_BC

Again, I'll ask: "I'm getting tired of listening to how the leaked emails prove that AGW is a sham. No one actually goes through the emails thoroughly and explains how this is so."
____________________________________________________
Sulleny:

"Tell that to the Associate General Council of the DOE who has issued a "Litigation Hold Notice" to some 8,000 employees of the Department of Energy relevant to data, correspondence and materials related to “global warming, the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia In England, and/or climate change science.” To be extended to other Federal Departments and Agencies."

I look forward to that!

It's interesting that I spent a bit of time on CO2science.org, critically looking at their reams of pseudoscience reports, like the NIPCC. I went back to the sources they listed for their data, and compared it to the way they presented it in their report. The degree of obvious misrepresentation, basically lies, that they engaged in was quite staggering.

The data fabrication and manipulation was blatant, well beyond anything the climate scientists are being accused of. I posted this in various blogs. I could direct you there right now if you wanted. No one took interest.

Why? Because everyone expects AGW deniers and the oil industry to be crooked. It isn't news. It's a daily occurence for AGW deniers to manipulate data for the purpose of FUD. It's expected and no one really bats an eye anymore. But when it appears that scientists may have been less than forthcoming (as yet unproven), it becomes immediate worldwide news.

And ironically the financial scammers that destroyed the US economy last year are still unregulated, still up to their old games. Hardly anyone gives them notice. Where are our priorities? Certainly not on working towards economic and environmental sustainability.

And anyone who understands the technology involved in reducing carbon emissions knows very well that it is not only possible, but will result in a tremendous overall boost to the world economy. It will empower local people to take control of their own energy future and economies. But where does all the resistance and anger get directed? It's not directed to the free market scam artists on Wall Street. Rather, it's directed to an as-yet unproven group of scientists who are suggesting that we make changes to our society that have never shown any evidence of negatively affecting our economies!!!

It makes no sense. It's an interesting lesson into the mindset of this "human chimpanzee" we call ourselves.

www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawn_Fv7jlK8yRg-MD1ZYMiiYJQ_YBrSxqog

sulleny - "The FOI deception was the work of the CRU clan, not Metoffice."

Please explain what in the CRU emails demonstrates

# the surface temperature is not rising
# the Arctic is not warming
# that sea ice extent is not decreasing
# that sea ice is not thinning
# that ocean heat content is not rising
# that the stratosphere is not cooling
# that plant and animal species are not shifting their ranges and/or their phenological traits, and/or are not suffering from alterations in their bioclimatic envelopes
# that glacier mass-loss and -retreats are not increasing
# that sea levels are not rising?

Stan Peterson

Copenhagen was a political deal for the politiicians. They sought the votes and ccoperation of the undeveloped 77 by offering them free monney. Until the Danes revealed that it was just present foriegn aid money renamed and not new funds.

The developed world politicians enthusiastically supported any idea that justifies more money, power, and taxes to distribute to friends. Except they got to arguing about who gets what.

The 'Rentiers' looked forward to lots of grants, studies, trading profits, and subsidies, for their uneconomic, polluting, 'green' technologies. Until they started arguing over who gets what.

Then the hurricane of revelations of wrong doing emerged in East Anglia, implicating EU and American researchers as well.

sulleny

"suffering from alterations in their bioclimatic envelopes..."

Anything like a manila envelope?

Stan Peterson

A fine American President once observed that "You can fool SOME of the people ALL of the time; and ALL of the people SOME of the time; but you can't fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.

It is typical to meet a good collection of the type 'SOME people...ALL of the time' foolish people here. Not knowing much, and not wanting or willing to investigate or think, they accept foolish answers. They are easy dupes to accept demonizing opponents; and swallowing patent bovine manure.

AGW was a valid qualitative scientific hypotheses in the 1950s. That hypotheses has now been quantitatively disproven by 21st century Science, to the satisfaction of any thinking person versed in the Sciences and willing to investigate the field.

That's why 33,000 US Scientists and Engineers signed a petition saying AGW assertions were questionable and dubious. That was long before the Climate gate scandals were unearthed, and confirmed the reality.

BTW, Pop news is hardly a source for scientific truth.

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