The Flopenhagen Accord: A Failure and a Greenwash

Feature story - December 18, 2009
The Flopenhagen Accord: A Failure and a Greenwash
  • At about 10:00 a.m. December 19, parties at the conference agreed to "take note of" the so-called "Copenhagen Accord". The Accord (see attached), has not been adopted by the Copenhagen climate conference (see below), and it completely fails to achieve an agreement that could prevent catastrophic climate change in the coming years.
  • The Copenhagen Accord is a failure on all fundamental issues - First, the Accord is not legally binding. Second, the Accord has no aggregate targets for industrial or developing countries, and no agreed base-year. Third, financial commitments from industrial countries are limited and uncertain. (see below for more detail on these issues)
  • Procedure - Procedurally, consensus on the Accord was impossible, so the Accord only has a limited number of endorsers (there was reference to a 'group of 28'), and the United Nations Conference of the Parties only "takes note of" the Accord. It is effectively outside of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is not clear how many countries have endorsed, but essentially this was an Accord pushed by major industrial countries including the USA and Canada, in order to give some semblance of "success" in Copenhagen. The Accord is a complete greenwash which has not been supported by the conference as whole.
  • Not legally binding - One of the major strengths of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is that it is legally binding. Environmentalists argued strongly that the KP should be maintained, strengthened and extended as a fundamental structure going forward. This Accord may spell the death of the KP, although both negotiating tracks of the negotiations (the Kyoto Protocol and the Long-term Cooperative Action) will still proceed into COP16 in Mexico.
  • No mandated timeline - The Accord has no clear timeline for follow-up. The earliest we can expect is probably the COP16 meeting to be held a year from now in Mexico. There seems to be little appetite for an extended COP15 meeting in June or July, (COP 15bis) as Denmark would remain in charge, and they have no trust among parties.
  • No targets - The Accord as approved is even weaker than earlier drafts. An earlier draft referred to a reduction target of "at least 80 per cent by 2050", and "aggregate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of X per cent in 2020 compared to 1990." With no aggregate target, reduction commitments are voluntary, with no guarantee of reaching the target implied by the 2 degree C limit (Accord paragraphs 1 and 2). The Accord also fails to require 1990 as a base year.
  • No hard financial commitments - Financial commitments from industrial countries for adaptation and emissions reduction in the developing world are short-term and uncertain (see Accord paragraph 8). There is a commitment to "provide new and additional resources amounting to 30 billion dollars for the period 2010-2012," but no specific dollar amounts from funder countries.  The long-term financial support refers only to a vague "goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020." This proposal comes with no specific dollar commitments from any industrial country.
  • Climate funding mechanism - On a positive note, the creation of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund (Accord paragraph 10) has the potential to provide a vehicle for international funding if short- and long-term finance can be mobilized.

- December 19, 2009