Risk and Climate Change Dossier

The Copenhagen climate summit held last December, 2009, at the Danish capital, let down almost everybody. No significant measures to protect the environment were brought to the negotiations table. But a last-minute agreement provides a shred of hope.

Risk and Climate Change Dossier
To those participating in the summit, promoted by the United Nations, the world demanded the adoption of urgent measures to diminish or at the very least contain the emission of greenhouse gases. Throughout the fifteen-day meeting, talks were conflicted and weighed down by political and economic differences expounded by the nations attending the summit. Fearing that the summit would not in the end produce anything meaningful or practical, the representatives of the United States, Brazil, China, South Africa and China met for a round of negotiations on the night that preceded the closing day of the summit and brought forth the Copenhagen Agreement. It is non-binding, but supposedly accepted on purely formal terms by the remaining attendees. Now it is up to each country to decide whether they will abide by the agreement or not. The Copenhagen Agreement is the most tangible result of a rare moment in History: Over 100 heads of government meeting at any single place for a common purpose. What the Agreement demands in concrete terms is that countries party to the Agreement undertake to announce their national goals regarding the emission of gases harmful to the atmosphere. The outcomes thus declared will be subject to international scrutiny, but there will be no sanctions meted out to defaulting countries, as the Agreement is not legally binding. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, admitted that this understanding among countries is insufficient and will not provide a workable decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, although he qualified the text of the Agreement as significant and unprecedented. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-general to the United Nations, acknowledged that Copenhagen is merely the start of a process. He exhorted all countries to formally sign the Agreement, signalling his agreement with the path begun at Copenhagen.

Overal, a mood of despondence hung over the Summit. Scientifical organizations and NGOs feel that the proceedings at Copenhagen show world leaders are unable to reach consensus on environmental matters, having witnessed the continued accusations and mud-flinging between rich and poor countries. The WWF claims that the agreement clears none of the political obstacles to effective environmental action. However, amidst the general outcry, a few were happy that environmental concerns are now part of the political agendas of world powers such as the US or China (jointly responsible for the largest volume of greenhouse gas emissions on Earth) and pointed out that emerging economies are gaining the foreground when it comes to concrete action. The instatement of a monetary fund sustained by developed countries was generally praised. This fund will provide for a 3-year programme (2010-2013) whose goal it is to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change (droughts, floods and other adverse events) and foster clean-energy projects. Though it is generally felt that Copenhagen was a missed opportunity, there is hope that a new global dynamic will emerge. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, summed up the coming challenge: To transform the political pact birthed at the Danish capital into something "real, measurable and verifiable.” Our quest to save the planet will continue, with another crucial episode in December 2010, hosted by Mexico City. It is expected that the intentions set forth by the Copenhagen Agreement will become strict and demanding international laws.
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