Day 13 in Copenhagen: “Not Fair, Not Ambitious, Not Binding”

The UN climate summit in Copenhagen closed with a face-saving deal, but everyone is going home disappointed.

Last night, U.S. president Barack Obama announced that five major nations had reached a deal. The final document includes non-binding emission reduction targets and climate aid for the poorest countries. The final document resolves allow temperatures to rise no more than 2C, though many low-lying and island nations lobbied for an even lower target. All references to a maximum warming of 1.5C were stricken at the last minute. The accord stipulates that small island states, Africa, developing countries, and the least developed countries will be first in line for aid to adapt to climate change.

The signatories “committed to the goal” of jointly mobilizing USD $100 billion a year for climate aid by 2020. A significant portion of this funding is expected to flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

Everyone admits that the Copenhagen pact isn’t nearly enough. Opinion is divided over whether it is even a good start.

Even President Obama, who has been described as  the “driving force” behind the eleventh hour deal, admits that document doesn’t go nearly far enough. Obama insists that a binding deal remains the ultimate goal.

“The so-called Copenhagen Accord is a failure of political will – it fails the basic test for an acceptable outcome – the agreement is not fair, it is not ambitious, and it is not binding” said Dave Martin, Greenpeace Canada Climate and Energy Coordinator. Greenpeace Canada noted in its press release yesterday that the Copenhagen Accord hasn’t even been adopted by the United Nations Council of Parties (COP). That’s the COP in COP 15, in case you were wondering.

Obama left early, apparently confident that the deal would be adopted by COP. However, no sooner had he left than a coalition of developing countries including Venezuela and Sudan announced that they weren’t satisfied with the process by which the accord was reached and that they wouldn’t vote to adopt it. A deal needed unanimous assent in order to be adopted. After hours of emotional debate, COP passed a resolution simply noting the deal without adopting it. Actually, they agreed to note a version that was even more watered down than the original.

John Broder of the New York Times concluded that, even with the deal, the Copenhagen summit failed to meet even “the modest expectations that leaders set for this meeting, notably by failing to set a 2010 goal for reaching a binding international treaty to seal the provisions of the accord.”

Copenhagen was Barack Obama’s first major international event as a Nobel laureate. Apparently, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Yesterday, Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic tweeted: “Do today’s events in Copenhagen reflect a larger failure (so far) of Obama’s diplomatic strategy? He was lied to by allies & had to beg for a meeting.” UN Dispatch is trying to get to the bottom of this story. We’ll update you if we learn more. Tipsters, you know where to reach us.