What is the latest climate accord in Copenhagen and what are its implications?

The Copenhagen Accord that India plans to sign here will instantly forgive industrialised countries’ historical responsibility for climate change, eliminate the distinction between developed and developing countries, prevent effective action to curb global warming, and fatally undermine efforts to renew the Kyoto Protocol. This will be disastrous for the climate, and for India’s most vulnerable communities, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

  • India buckles under pressure in Copenhagen
  • The Copenhagen Accord (which has not been adopted by the Conference of Parties) agrees to weak and non-legally commitments from developed world. The agreement will be disastrous for the world, particularly the poor and the most vulnerable, as it will allow emissions to increase in the rich world.
  • The Copenhagen Accord agrees to a process, which will ultimately kill the Kyoto Protocol and undermine the legitimacy of the UNFCCC. It changes the framework based on equity and historical emissions
  • It agrees that developing country action, which are not supported through international finance and technology also be open “international consultation and analysis”, which could become a backhand way of bringing in international commitments on these countries. This is euphemistic language for international monitoring, reporting and verification
  • “The Accord will not only be disastrous for the climate, it will freeze the inequity in the world for perpetuity,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE.

The Copenhagen Accord will not curb global greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid a climate catastrophe; the world’s and India’s most vulnerable populations will pay the price.

The accord uses weak and inconsequential language on the matter of cutting emissions from industrialized countries. In fact, it sets up a framework for cutting future emissions, which is bound to take the world to climate catastrophe. It must be noted that as yet, there has been an agreement that industrialized countries must cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020. The Copenhagen Accord destroys this agreement through the following provisions.

It does not set time-bound targets for emission reduction from industrialized countries. Instead it simply says that these countries commit to implement individually or jointly the emission reduction targets that they will themselves submit to the secretariat.

In other words, these countries will be allowed to set their own domestic targets, whatever these may be. The targets will not be based on internationally agreed burden sharing arrangements – how much industrialized countries must cut to keep the world within the 2°C temperature increase (which itself is too high) by when. In the climate agreements, the targets are currently set based on the historical and current emissions of countries. This provision will be disastrous for the world and set up a framework based on inequity and unfair burden sharing. It must be rejected. This virtually guarantees that the world will not be able to prevent runaway global warming. An analysis by the UNFCCC, leaked yesterday, shows that current pledges by industrialised countries will put the planet on track to an average temperature increase of 3°C.

The Accord does not set a firm peaking year for Annex 1 countries. It is well known that these countries should have already peaked in their emissions. The Accord in fact gives them a cop-out as it will allow them to use their domestic pledges to actually increase and not decrease emissions fast. The US pledge in fact allows it to increase it emissions for the next 10 years or more. This will be disastrous for all.

The Accord proposes a pledge-and-review model for emissions reduction, which means that developed countries are only asked to take voluntary, domestic actions. This is a step backwards from the current Kyoto Protocol, which legally requires industrialised countries to make modest emissions cuts between 2008 and 2012.

In May 2009, India, China and 35 other developing nations had submitted an ambitious proposal to the UNFCCC to strengthen Kyoto by requiring nations to cut their emissions by 45 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. This is what scientists say is needed in order to avoid dangerous temperature rises of 2°C or more.

By agreeing to a pledge-and-review deal today, India has done an extraordinary about-face. The UN has estimated that current pledges by developing countries would sentence the world to temperature increases of at least 3°C. There is nothing in the Copenhagen Accord that can compel industrialised countries to take stronger near-term targets in order to avoid dangerous global warming.