U.N. Summit Once Coined as 'Hopenhagen' Turns into 'Flopenhagen'

BERLIN, Dec. 21 (UPI) — World leaders failed to put aside their national interests to save the climate at an utterly chaotic U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Representatives from nearly 200 countries met in Copenhagen for the past two weeks to hammer out a legally binding climate-protection treaty.

In the end, they got an accord that world leaders did not adopt, but “took note of,” meaning that it isn’t legally binding. The text includes a pledge to cap the temperature rise at 3.6 F, but it doesn’t spell out emissions-reduction targets for developed or developing countries. This is below experts’ most modest expectations. Instead of Hopenhagen, the Danish city is now called Flopenhagen.

The so-called Copenhagen Accord is the consensus negotiated by a number of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma.

In the end, all the pledges by world leaders, including Obama, proved empty words, as neither the world’s biggest economy — the United States — nor the world’s biggest emitter — China — was willing to move on key issues.

British Premier Gordon Brown said a few countries held the talks “to ransom,” until they culminated in what many say is a lukewarm compromise.

“This is the best that we can get?” asked Kim Naodoo, the head of Greenpeace International. “Then essentially what the most powerful countries and particularly the United States is saying is that we are issuing a death warrant for people in small island states.”

But there is a glimmer of hope.

In an positive side to the accord, developed countries promised $30 billion in aid for poorer nations trying to deal with climate change between 2010 and 2012, a fund that is due to rise to as much as $100 billion a year by 2020.

And leaders have pledged to work hard in 2010 to get a legally binding agreement by the end of 2010 in Mexico City, where the next COP will take place.

In the United States, Obama will try to push through a clean energy and climate bill that might encourage China to boost its emissions reduction pledges as well. Yet Obama did not come to Copenhagen willing to boost America’s reduction pledges to soothe China, and it remains to be seen whether Beijing really drops the blocking attitude it brought to the recent summit.

“We should be conscious that a huge challenge lies ahead of us,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Next year’s conference in Mexico has to achieve “all the things we were supposed to achieve” in Copenhagen, he said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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