COPENHAGEN: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Let’s start with the good: The “good” is actually not found in the accord, but rather in the birth of a diverse global movement for climate justice that is demanding real solutions that get us down to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide — demands made with a collective voice growing ever louder and more unified.
Turning to the bad: The 12-paragraph “Copenhagen Accord” might actually better be termed the Copenhagen “press release”…because it’s about as binding.
In the end, rather than “adopting” the accord, delegates only “noted” its existence. As one commentator said, remarking on the “accord’s” existence, it reads like a preamble to a treaty that was supposed to be agreed upon in Copenhagen but was not.
The bad also lies in the way in which this so-called accord was reached, with the United States sticking to a take-it-or-leave-it proposition that put vulnerable countries in even weaker bargaining positions. As the Center’s press release noted: “We cannot make truly meaningful and historic steps with the United States pledging to reduce CO2 emissions by only 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The science demands far more.”
The Ugly: Perhaps the gravest problem with the Copenhagen accord is that it sets a goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius but fails to provide the targeted reductions to meet that goal – even if those voluntary targets were in fact completely achieved.
The accord simply reiterates the emissions reduction targets already on the table before Copenhagen, most notably the United States’ meager and frankly embarrassing pledge to reduce emissions just 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Preliminary calculations by a team of experts led by an MIT professor found that under the accord, even if fully implemented despite its voluntary structure, the average global temperature is likely to rise 3.2 degrees Celsius.
To go along with the weak and unenforceable pledges, the accord also fails because it does not set a target date where emissions would peak and then decline, which ideally would be around 2015.
United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer stated: “It is very critical that you get a peak and a decline starting soon…The opportunity to actually make it into the scientific window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.”
Summing it all up, Andrew Watson, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain, said: “From the evidence of the last two weeks, I would say we have a heck of a long way still to go if, as a species, we are to avoid the fate that usually afflicts populations that outgrow their resources.”
We better get busy making the most of the “good.”
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