Copenhagen: Not Enough…Tuvalu Gone, But Still Hope for NYC

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Copenhagen… moved the process forward. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the agreement had almost universal support. “Let’s remember, a year ago nobody thought this sort of agreement was possible.” But most are not satisfied. Among the reasons for disappointment are that it is not a legally binding treaty. However – neither was Kyoto… initially.

The Kyoto accord only became legally binding 9 years later in 2005, and only then because that was when Russia signed the agreement. The protocol had to be ratified by enough nations to account for at least 55% of greenhouse gas emissions in order to become a valid, binding treaty, and once Russia signed, that threshold was reached. And really  it took from 1992, when the Rio agreement focused attention on the problem; till 2005 for it to become legal and binding. These things take time.


The good news is that this time, unlike Kyoto, every nation is included. For the first time, China, India and the US were participants in a worldwide agreement that deep cuts in global emissions are required to hold the increase in average global temperatures to less than 2 C above the pre-Industrial Revolution level.

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Also agreed to was:

Another month of continuing work with a deadline of February 1st for developed countries to commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020.

That developing countries would take mitigation actions and communicate them every two years and an assessment of the results would be shared by 2015.

The five major emitters: the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa together achieved a ”meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” to list their national actions to curb climate change and set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 C from pre-industrial levels.

Developed countries agreed to set a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.

That reducing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation is crucial. To affirm the pledges by developed nations to provide new and additional resources worth $30 billion from 2010 to 2012 to help developing countries mitigate climate change and protect forests.

That developed countries would provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, and technology as well as capacity-building to help developing countries implement adaptation action.

All nations agreed to cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible.

The bad news is that this is not enough to save Tuvalu. Like the Maldives, they will be the first of us to go. If the entire world had agreed to the The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and acted swiftly, we might have. We needed to keep the average global temperature rise (average means add some snow in Texas plus even more drought in Australia = global average added together is still hotter) to no more than 1.5 degrees C to save Tuvalu.

But it’s to be expected that there are losses. As the decades roll by and we don’t switch to clean renewable energy fast enough, it will get harder and harder to come out of these international agreements to do something about the problem, because less and less will be achievable.

As a disappointed Bolivian UN Ambassador said tonight: “Why we don’t accept because that means that several islands are going to disappear. Our glaciers in the mountains are going to disappear. Africa is going to be cooked. We are approaching a situation where we cannot guarantee that we are going to be able to save whole humanity.”

Each succeeding agreement will necessarily achieve less and less as more and more is lost. And as things get worse for us all over the next decades, less money will be available for education, as more has to go to disaster relief, flood control and the military to keep the ever increasing roiling seas of disasters under control. As each generation gets less for education, the job gets easier for the fossil industry to continue to obstruct movement and agreement.

So it is sad that we can’t agree to the targets needed to save us. If we keep working on it, we might be able to turn things around in time to save New York. Or not.

Full text of the tentative agreement at Copenhagen on pg 2 via Grist

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