It would appear that the major accomplishment of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 held in Copenhagen is consensus that global warming is indeed a serious challenge and we must do something about it. While this observation is somewhat sarcastic, it is likely closer to the mark than measuring how far it actually went in the direction of creating a global consensus regarding goals, transparent emissions measurement, and some reasonable equity between the handful of controlling economics and the rest of the world.
Individual countries, no matter how small, will have to take their own initiative, working from the bottom up, creating a unity of purpose that other nations can begin sharing. Costa Rica’s idea of Peace With Nature and all its ramifications is the road map for this country. Global accords and country initiatives are invaluable first steps, but of little true value without proper documentation and enforcement. The Copenhagen Accord is essentially an impotent statement of the obvious, while Peace With Nature creates the edifice of purpose that Costa Rica needs to fully inhabit.
We feel extremely fortunate to share Dr. Pedro Leon Azofeifa’s perspective on the closing days of the climate conference. He is the Coordinator of the Peace With Nature initiative and part of the delegation in Copenhagen. He is a professor of biology at the School of Medicine, University of Costa Rica, and co-founder of the school’s Cell and Molecular Biology Center. Dr. Leon also is a founding member of the Costa Rica Academy of Sciences, and is the first Costa Rican scientist to be elected to the United States’ National Academy of Sciences. In Copenhagen, he was a scientist in the political laboratory of global dynamics and his communication reflects the chasm between the two.
“Today, Saturday (12/19), at about 3PM the COP 15 concluded with a marathon effort that started on Friday at about 10PM and went on till 3 PM on Saturday non-stop. Friday morning started with the speeches from several world leaders including the Chinese President Jintao, President Obama, President Lula, President Uribe, President Morales, Chavez and others. Chavez as usual ranted and raved against Obama with heavy insults, calling him the Nobel Prize of War…etc. Lula gave the most inspiring and balanced presentation, emerging as one of the smartest leaders.
Twenty-five of the world leaders actually worked on a proposal throughout the night that was later cast into a statement for approval by the parties. This, in turn, gave rise to a marathon debate that started about 11PM Friday evening and almost collapsed several times in part due to the abysmal ability of the Danish Prime Minister who presided over the meeting. Strong opposition by Sudan and the ALBAcountries almost erased the proposal completely several times during the night, but the vast majority of the countries pulled together in the end to keep the document alive for the next COP, allowing also the enactment of immediate actions with funding offered by the European Union, the US, Japan and others.
The need for complete consensus makes the UN a very ineffective body, as a single country can block agreements and progress. The other large disappointment was the ineffective leadership of the Secretary General, who seemed totally unengaged. Strong leadership in the UN is essential to save this basic body of deliberations…the only one the world has.
The document approved is a minimal agreement that will be the basis for further debates in the next COP meeting in Mexico. I was very impressed and proud of the leadership role of the Costa Rican delegation and particularly Christiana Figueres, who has assumed a very impressive leadership role, along with a group of technical experts that worked night and day.
I was happily surprised with the respect and credibility of the delegation that has played a key role in serving as a bridge between different countries with different ideologies. We knew that the meeting would not yield legally binding agreements, but at least the overnight marathon managed to keep the basic document alive and the basis for further debates.”
What follows is a brief introduction to the finalized Copenhagen Accord by Dr. Alvaro Umaña Quesada, Climate Change Ambassador and Chief Negotiator for Costa Rica. It was written prior to the negotiations discussed by Dr. Leon. It is, in fact, the preface to the very intense final few days of the conference, and it is interesting to juxtapose its intention with an edited version of the actual accord, where you will find a paucity of substance and a plethora of rhetoric.
“As Chief Negotiator of Costa Rica at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, I would like to present some personal reflections that will allow interested Costa Ricans to inform themselves about what is happening here in Copenhagen and what theCosta Rican delegation is accomplishing at this convention.
As reported in the press, negotiations are stalled. Why no progress? Why are we stuck? These are the big questions. We have less than 72 hours to complete the work of this international gathering –the largest one of its type. It seems incredible that we cannot predict if we will succeed or whether it will be a colossal failure. This shows the deep divisions between countries and reflects the inability of all political leaders to confront the greatest challenge of our era.
If no agreement is reached, it will not be for lack of effort. Here the pace is frenetic, the Costa Rican delegation worked until the early morning hours and there is a push to complete all the texts for Wednesday afternoon, the 16th of December.
So that everyone can understand the complexity of the negotiations, I present here the four most important issues:
1. How much and when will the industrialized nations promise to reduce GHG?
2. How and when to deal with the emission reductions of the big. emerging economies (Brazil, China, Mexico, India)?
3. How many economic or financial resources are the industrialized countries going to put on the table?
4. What mechanism will be devised for the allocation of these funds?
In these United Nations conferences, the delegates exchange words but do not yet make the decisions. The negotiations operate by consensus, so that one country can block the negotiations completely. The different proposals are added to the core text and now this is growing way out of proportion. At this point the negotiating text for Copenhagen has exceeded 600 pages!”
1. We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Least developed countries and small island developing States may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support. 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.
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.
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 ñ 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation. 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.
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.