Climate change information centre > What happened at Copenhagen?
What happened at Copenhagen?
Although it was unlikely that the Copenhagen conference would ever result in 192 countries agreeing a set of legally binding emission-reduction targets, the final agreement - the 'Copenhagen Accord', spearheaded between the U.S, India, South Africa, China and Brazil and signed by 25 world leaders - omitted even the long-term emissions goals included in earlier drafts. The deal outlined fell far short of the ambitions for the Copenhagen summit. There was no agreement on a long term global mitigation target of 50% by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change, and no agreement that global emissions should peak by 2015-2020. Both are, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, necessary to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations at 450ppm and to avoid global temperature rises of more than 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels.
Here are key points from the agreement:
"Deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science...with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius." The Copenhagen Accord therefore recognises the scientific case for keeping temperature rises to no more than 2⁰C but does not contain commitments to emissions reductions to achieve that goal.
Legally binding deal:
The accord "recognizes the importance of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals or greenhouse gas emission by forests," and agrees to provide "positive incentives" to fund such action with financial resources from the developed world.
In fact, Copenhagen's bright spot was progress on slowing deforestation. The logging and burning of tropical rainforests accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions, and eliminates important carbon sinks such as the Amazon. A plan excluded from Kyoto — titled Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) — under which wealthier nations pay rainforest countries for preserving their trees made a comeback at Copenhagen. Stopping deforestation is a cheap way to slow carbon emissions and protects the most important wildlife habitat on the planet.
Expect a renewal of the same debates a year from now at the next U.N. climate summit in Mexico City in November 2010.
It is clear that a lot of awareness raising still needs to be done - btanic gardens can use their incredible outreach to educate people that climate change is a fact, a process already underway, not some sort of speculation or proposition of faith, and that it is possible to simultaneously transition to a low carbon economy and enhance our way of life. Of course, plants are part of the solution in so many ways and we must be their advocates!
Wishing all readers a peaceful festive season.
The road to Copenhagen: the most important meeting in history?
2 December 2009
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