Copenhagen a cop-out

A shameful failure to save us from the effects of climate change

Feature story - December 19, 2009
Two years have passed since world leaders promised all of us a deal to stop climate change. After two weeks of UN negotiations, politicians breezed in, had dinner with the Queen, a three hour lunch, took some photos and then delivered what could only be described as the 24 hour Head of State tourist brochure of Copenhagen instead of a climate treaty.

Think or Swim!

Don't believe the hype, there is nothing fair, ambitious or legally binding about this deal. The job of world leaders is not done. Today they shamefully failed to save us all from the effects of catastrophic climate change.

Click here for a detailed assessment of the Copenhagen Accord

The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame. World leaders had a once in a generation chance to change the world for good, to avert catastrophic climate change. What we needed was a legally binding agreement that was fair to developing countries and ambitious when it came to emissions cuts and ending deforestation. In the end they produced a poor deal full of loopholes big enough to fly Air Force One through. We've seen a year of crises, but today it is clear that the biggest one facing humanity is a leadership crisis.

Who's to blame?

During the year, a number of developing countries showed a willingness to accept their share of the burden to avert climate chaos. But in the end, the blame for failure mostly lies with the rich industrialised world, countries which have the largest historic responsibility for causing the problem. In particular, the US failed to take any real leadership and dragged the talks down.

The scientists are saying that we have only a few years left to stop the rise in emissions before making the kind of rapid reductions that would give us the best chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. We cannot change that science, so instead we will have to change the politics - and we may well have to change the politicians.

Fifteen million people demanded that world leaders take responsibility and make good on their promise to deliver a real deal to save the climate. World leaders clearly heard us - echoing our messages in many of their own speeches.

Not done yet

This is not over, people everywhere demanded a real deal before the Summit began and they are still demanding it. We can still save hundreds of millions of people from the devastation of a warming world, but it has just become a whole lot harder.

Our Executive Director and chair of the tcktcktck coalition, Kumi Naidoo said "Civil society, the bulk of which was locked out of the final days of this Climate Summit, now needs to redouble its efforts. Each and every one of us must hold our leaders to account. We must take the struggle to avert climate catastrophe into every level of politics, local, regional, national and international. We also need to take it into the board room and onto the high streets. We can either work for a fundamental change in our society or we can suffer the consequences of one."

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