Glimmers of ‘Hopenhagen’

Gail Karlsson reports: One of the most encouraging signs I saw in Copenhagen during the UN Climate Change Conference was on the shirt worn by the desk clerk at my hotel in Malmo, Sweden, across the Oresund bridge. It said ‘I am a citizen of Hopenhagen’.

She was not among the over 40,000 registered conference participants, or one of the many young people who marched for climate justice. Nevertheless she is someone who wants the world’s leaders to take action for a sustainable future.

Most likely she, like many others, was confused by the complexity of international negotiations and disappointed that no legally binding commitments were made for future greenhouse gas emission reductions. But this is not the end of the climate negotiation process and there is still plenty of time for hope, and for action.  

The ‘Hopenhagen’ shirts were part of an International Advertising Association campaign to support the UN climate negotiations by creating a grassroots movement powerful enough to influence change. The message is that we can all begin reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions and working together on climate change solutions, no matter how small our contributions may seem.  

Since I was at the UN conference as a citizen of the United States, not Hopenhagen, I was a bit nervous about being held accountable for my country’s lack of action to prevent climate change. In fact, I was questioned about why Americans don’t seem to care about the impacts of their cars, oil and coal consumption on poor countries like Bangladesh and low-lying islands like the Maldives, places that are already losing land and homes due to rising sea levels. However, I was pleased to be able to report that New York City already has its own emission reduction plans and targets, and that other Americans like Bill McKibben have been busy mobilizing people to press for global CO2 limits of 350 parts per million.

I was also grateful to have a President who came to Copenhagen and engaged in the negotiations, saying that he recognizes that “climate change poses a grave and growing danger” and that “we must bridge old divides and build new partnerships to meet this great challenge of our time.”

People from many countries were discouraged that President Obama did not promise more, especially in terms of binding emission reduction targets. But he cannot promise more without the support of more Americans, and more US Senators.

“Most importantly, we remain committed to comprehensive legislation that will create millions of new American jobs, power new industry, and enhance our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. That effort at home serves as a foundation for our leadership around the world....The time has come for us to get off the sidelines and to shape the future that we seek.”

In his report to the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that 130 national leaders came to the conference, and that “the Copenhagen Accord marks a significant step towards the first truly global agreement that can limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptation for the most vulnerable, and help to establish a new era of environmentally sustainable growth.”

The elements of the Copenhagen Accord include:

1. An agreement to work towards a common, long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and to review the adequacy this commitment in 2015 to take account of new scientific evidence (possibly reducing it to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as proposed by the vulnerable island states and poor countries already experiencing adverse consequences of climate change).

2. Commitments by developed countries to establish and implement targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and by major emerging economies (such as China, India, and Brazil) to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions and communicate their efforts every two years.

3. Recognition of the importance of acting to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

4. Pledges of $30 billion a year between 2010 and 2012 (and a goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020) to be disbursed primarily through a new Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, for mitigation and adaptation activities to assist the most vulnerable people in developing countries.

Secretary-General Ban urged all governments to formally sign on to the Copenhagen Accord (officially it was just "noted" at the end of the Copenhagen conference), and then to work towards converting those commitments into a legally binding climate change treaty as soon as possible in 2010. He also urged countries to increase their emission reduction commitments, since the current ones do not meet the minimum needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

“I am aware that the outcomes of the Copenhagen Conference, including the Copenhagen Accord, did not go as far as some had hoped. Nonetheless, they represent a beginning -- an essential beginning. It will take more than this to definitively tackle climate change. But it is an important step in the right direction.” He also promised to work on streamlining the UN negotiation process going forward.

For me, though, it was California Governor Schwarzenegger, speaking at the parallel Climate Summit for Mayors in Copenhagen, who best expressed what I would call the ‘Hopenhagen Challenge.’
“We cannot wait for national governments to fight climate change on their own, because then we would have to have wait for a long time. I also believe it is wrong to think of this as a top-down decision, so the only way we can be successful is by cooperating. All good things start on a grassroots level, so hopefully this meeting in Copenhagen will inspire citizens, mayors and state leaders, and help turn the fight against climate change into a hip movement.”

With or without a legally binding international agreement, it is clear that state and local actions, combined with a variety of personal decisions and private sector innovations, will all inevitably be needed to cut our emissions, create green jobs and businesses, and build sustainable communities. Of course, all that is easier with the right national government policies in place, as the Danes were eager to demonstrate in their country's presentations and exhibitions, including high taxes on cars and fossil fuels, and major public investments in mass transit and renewable energy.

Meanwhile, we do not need to wait for the UN to organize another conference before taking our own steps to become more responsible citizens of Hopenhagen. The most important steps are to help build a constituency for sustainable development, starting with our own homes and communities and local governments, and to work politically towards counterbalancing the influence of oil and coal companies in Congress.

Copenhagen Accord

The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,

In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,

Being guided by the principles and provisions of the Convention,

Noting the results of work done by the two Ad hoc Working Groups,

Endorsing decision x/CP.15 on the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action and decision x/CMP.5 that requests the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol to continue its work,

Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately

1.   We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change. We recognize the critical impacts of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effects and stress the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support.

2.   We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity. We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and that a low-emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development.

3.   Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures is a challenge faced by all countries. Enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to ensure the implementation of the Convention by enabling and supporting the implementation of adaptation actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in developing countries, especially in those that are particularly vulnerable, especially least developed countries, small island developing States and Africa. We agree that developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries.

4.   Annex I Parties commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy wide emissions targets for 2020, to be submitted in the format given in Appendix I by Annex I Parties to the secretariat by 31 January 2010 for compilation in an INF document. Annex I Parties that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol will thereby further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol. Delivery of reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties, and will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.

5.   Non-Annex I Parties to the Convention will implement mitigation actions, including those to be submitted to the secretariat by non-Annex I Parties in the format given in Appendix II by 31 January 2010 for compilation in an INF document, consistent with Article 4.1 and Article 4.7, and in the context of sustainable development. Least developed countries and small island developing States may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support. Mitigation actions subsequently taken and envisaged by Non-Annex I Parties, including national inventory reports, shall be communicated through national communications consistent with Article 12.1(b) every two years on the basis of guidelines to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties. Those mitigation actions in national communications or otherwise communicated to the Secretariat will be added to the list in appendix II. Mitigation actions taken by Non-Annex I Parties will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification the result of which will be reported through their national communications every two years. Non-Annex I Parties will communicate information on the implementation of their actions through National Communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected. Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support will be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support. Those actions supported will be added to the list in appendix II. These supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

6.   We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.

7.   We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions. Developing countries, especially those with low emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low emission pathway.

8.   Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding as well as improved access shall be provided to developing countries, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, to enable and support enhanced action on mitigation, including substantial finance to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus), adaptation, technology development and transfer and capacity-building, for enhanced implementation of the Convention. The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation. Funding for adaptation will be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing States and Africa. In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. New multilateral funding for adaptation will be delivered through effective and efficient fund arrangements, with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries. A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

9.   To this end, a High Level Panel will be established under the guidance of and accountable to the Conference of the Parties to study the contribution of the potential sources of revenue, including alternative sources of finance, towards meeting this goal.

10.   We decide that the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.

11.   In order to enhance action on development and transfer of technology we decide to establish a Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation that will be guided by a country-driven approach and be based on national circumstances and priorities.

12.   We call for an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br> <img> <b> <i> <object> <h1> <h2> <h3><h4><h5><h6><span><blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options