To all of the people who had the goals and made the effort to bring positive change to the world in Copenhagen, here is one humungous thank you.
Everybody who worked on addressing this critical issue of human-accelerated and potentially catastrophic climate change deserves a hand of support right now, especially since what was agreed on in the final hour is quite a disappointment. Of course, some important movement was made, but some important targets and objectives were also completely missed, at least for now.
Everybody who made a sincere effort to protect the whole of humanity, countless species (perhaps 50% of those currently living), and a stable and supportive ecosystem, deserves a big thank you.
The results, some of which are summarized on the next page, may not match the great effort millions of people put in to bring positive climate change to the world (to reverse the current trends in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change). But for those who were struggling to bring a meaningful international agreement to the world, thank you.
For now, what have negotiators and world leaders achieved?
Achievements and Disappointments
1) Complete global acknowledgement that human-created and widely dangerous climate change is one of the biggest problems and challenges of our age is one achievement. As Obama stated, “The reality of climate change is not in doubt.” And as the tentative agreement states, “We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Whereas previous climate change conferences were missing critical countries (i.e. the US and China — the two leading greenhouse gas emitters), this meeting included much engagement from the US, China, India, Brazil, European nations, and hundreds of other countries.
2) On the other side of the coin, despite consistent pressure from African and island nations to aim for no more than a 1.5 degree (Celsius) increase, this figure was replaced with 2 degrees at the last moment. What is the result of this?
African and island nations are nearly doomed to climate tragedy, despite not really being responsible for the dramatic human-induced climate change. This is how some of the leaders of these countries have responded so far:
“[This] is asking Africa to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dependence of a few countries,” Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chair of the G77 group of 130 poor countries, said. ” It’s a solution based on values that funnelled six million people in Europe into furnaces,” he said, in reference to the Holocaust.
The Venezuelan delegate, who cut her palm and said that poorer nations had to bleed to be heard, said with regard to final back-room negotiations between only a handful of countries (in particular, the US and China), “You are witnessing a coup d’etat against the UN.”
In the end, it looks as though there is still some hope for developed nations, but not enough awareness or altruism from these countries to protect Africa and island nations (according to the goals of the current tentative agreement).
3) No binding agreement to reduce emissions by any set amount was reached at the conference. Despite the urgency (including financial urgency) of the issue, agreement was pushed off until 2010, at least.
In the end, some world leaders believe that while much more is needed, the negotiations and investment put in at the Copenhagen conference is an important step forward. As James Murray reports, “President Obama said the deal, which sought compromise on the three main issues of emission targets, climate funding, and emissions verification, hailed a ‘historic” breakthrough’, but he also admitted that the agreement was ‘not enough’ to tackle global warming.”
Of course, others did not see this as being a true first step, or as being only a first step in protecting some countries (as discussed above).
Despite the great disappointment and concern for African and island nations, we have to have hope this slow start in walking towards a safe climate soon turns into a graceful run. We have to have hope that we will run fast enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, once we get started. And I think we have to give thanks to the millions of people who are working for this.