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Copenhagen Climate Moves “Won’t Turn On A Dime”

  • December 30th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

COMMENTARY: The world climate change conference at  Copenhagen (7-18.12.09) produced an accord registering nations’ commitments but not the binding treaty being sought by environmentalist gr0pups and by several, mostly Western, governments.


copenhagen-logo.jpegPresident Barack Obama got to the core of the business at Copenhagen, late, bringing together (18.12.09) representatives from Brazil, China, India, and for Africa, the Republic of South Africa.

On his account of proceedings, (given before a hasty departure to beat snowstorms starting to engulf Northern Europe and the Eastern USA), he was able to separate these emergent economies from developing states that had been resisting change.

Up to that point developing countries had occupied proceedings with demands for money from the capitalist democracies and absolution of responsibility for themselves for future pollution of the skies.

In this vein several of the 130 states identified as the G77 spoke against a new treaty for all to sign, in favour of having a new edition of the 1997 Kyoto Accords on Global Warming, containing commitments principally by Western countries.


energy.jpgThe emergent, industrialising  group, while members of the G77 “Third World” cluster, China at least, did not insist on receiving money from a proposed central assistance fund to support climate change measures — but joined the rest in opposing a binding treaty.

A chief stumbling block was to do with concepts of time: the “West” should pay money and in other respects make amends for carbon emissions produced in the past; but none should be held to account in the same way for projected emissions in the immediate future.

This posed problems for delegations that had accepted a continuing  climate change phenomenon as urgent for the world.

rudd-abc.jpgThe Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, while acknowledging scarcely disputed figures showing some 75% of the atmospheric carbon load today was from the industrialised world, pointed to other calculations, about the future.

He said that if the developing states — mostly the large industrialising economies like Brazil, China and India — continued to grow at present levels, without accepting constraints, they would be responsible for 75% of carbon pollution produced up to 2050 – and the atmosphere would be 3-degrees hotter,( and so, pushing to the point of a severe global crisis).


The Chinese delegation, while nurturing the activities of client states in the G77, offered voluntary national targets for greenhouse gas reduction, which if observed would materially assist the international effort – though they rejected outright any independent international monitoring.

“This is the first time they offered up voluntary mitigation on targets”, said the United States President, in his report on the meeting with China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

obama-wikimediaorg-reduced.jpgRegistering the development as a positive change, he outlined the structure of a plan they agreed on, which was reflected in the general accord from the Copenhagen conference:

  • Climate change was acknowledged as a global problem for the first half of the century.
  • Individual countries would put up concrete commitments, in an appendix to the accord.
  • Those commitments would be subject to international examination, something like the way that trade proposals are examined under the WTO process (World Trade Organisation).
  • The commitments and examination process would not be legally binding.

(The general accord also includes building up the UN climate change fund and work towards agreement on a binding treaty in 2010).

Barack Obama said  goals being offered by delegations were still not enough and the coming negotiations would be difficult.

“It’s not going to turn on a dime.

“These contributions will not be enough to get us to where we need to be by 2050.

“There is a lot more to be done.

“I think it’s going to be hard and it’s going to take some time”, he said.


moon-un-resize.jpgThe United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, sponsor of the gathering , appealed to all countries to sign the accord and move towards a binding agreement at the climate change conference set for 2010, in Mexico.

He also called on the industrialised states to contribute to the fund intended to assist poorer countries with the adjustment to climate change, to develop non-carbon energy sources, and deal with inland flooding, drought and rising sea levels.

The fund is to build up to $US100-billion by 2020.

The Copenhagen event was formally known as the Fifteenth UN Climate Change Conference, in a process called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


copenhagen-conf-barroso.jpgThe European  Commission  President, Jose Manuel Barroso, declared the agreement fell far short of the EU’s expectations, though it considered “this accord is better than no accord.”

An EU summit in Brussels (11-12.12.09), at the commencement of the event in Copenhagen, reaffirmed a unilateral and exemplary commitment to 20% reductions in carbon gas emissions in the coming decade, and pledged jointly EU6.5- billion ($US10.6-billion) in assistance to developing countries.


Barak Obama, President of USA, Media Conference, Copenhagen, 18.12.09; Radio Australia, Melbourne,  18.12.09.

“EC Climate Change Action”. Europa, European Commission, Brussels. Text of Copenhagen Climate  Change Accord. … (30.12.09).

“Group of 77”, Wikipedia (29.12.09), Wikipedia Foundation, San Francisco. (30.12.09).

“UN urges all countries to sign climate accord”, AAP, 22.12.09. (30.12.09).

UN Climate Change Convention Dec 7-18 2009: COP 15 Change (Home), Copenhagen. (30.12.09).


Copenhagen conference; conference logo; Kevin Rudd; Barack Obama; Ban Ki Moon; Jose Manuel Barroso at Copenhagen.