Day 4 at Copenhagen: Small Countries Revolt

The prospects for a unified front between developed and developing nations in combating climate change further broke down today, as more than half of the world’s countries — mostly smaller nations, including those most threatened by the effects of global warming — pledged not to sign any accord that allows global temperatures to rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Abhishek‘s got more on that)

The target currently espoused by the world’s leading economies is 2 degrees. Reducing that figure by half a degree could require an additional investment of $10.5 trillion by 2030 to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million, lower than the current level of 387.

The pledge to limit an emissions increase to 1.5 degrees was announced by the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), following a similar move by the tiny island nation of Tuvalu yesterday, and backed by other developing nations. But it’s highly unlikely that the world’s leading emitters will commit to the kind of reductions that would enable a 1.5-degree target. Even the push to contain temperature increases to 2 degrees faces an uphill battle.

Meanwhile, the European Union, whose emissions targets have come under criticism, scrambled to come up with a game plan for the upcoming days of the conference, when key decisions will be made. The central issues for the EU are how sharply to curb greenhouse gas emissions and how much money to give poorer nations so they can cope with the effects of climate change.

The latter issue received additional attention today when George Soros unveiled a new proposal today that he says would free up $100 billion without adding to the donor countries’ deficits. “Developed countries’ governments are laboring under the misapprehension that funding has to come from their national budgets, but that is not the case—they have it already,” Soros said. “It is lying idle in their reserves accounts and in the vaults of the International Monetary Fund.”

The climate conference itself is again facing criticism, this time for its own contribution to carbon emissions. According to The New York Times, the conference will generate 40,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

But some good news for environmentalists came out of the United States today, when a tripartisan group of senators unveiled their framework for a domestic climate bill. Their move could lend more legitimacy to President Obama’s pledges, which some fear will be undermined by a recalcitrant Congress. Need a reminder of just how important the United States is to global emissions levels? Look no further than this map.