I would like to take some time to discuss what happened in Copenhagen. I know it was difficult for me to keep up with what was happening, and I thought that it might be helpful to have a little briefing for those of you who might have been participating in time-consuming activities—like grad school—over the past several months.
The Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2013, which is why in December 2009, the Denmark Government hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC). This conference was a series of negotiations with the aim of addressing climate change. You might have heard the term COP 15 in the news—this is an abbreviation for the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties. COP 15 is the governing body of the UNCCC that must approve any agreement reached at the conference. One hundred and twenty governments sent their respective heads of state to participate; unfortunately the negotiations were not concluded. Because of this failure to agree, 2010 has seen a series of follow-up negotiations, which will culminate in December at the Mexican hosted COP 16 session.
So What Happened?
The Copenhagen negotiations hit a major deadlock on namely three issues: mitigation targets, financial aid for climate change adjustment, and compensation for avoiding deforestation. When we study international agreements we typically see a divide between developed and developing nations, and the Copenhagen negotiations were no different. Essentially, the rift centers on who would pay for the costs associated with climate change. In an effort to continue making progress despite deadlocks, the Copenhagen Accord was drafted outside of official channels by twenty-eight nations including the U.S., China, India, and Brazil. Regardless of widespread support, the Accords could not be approved because of the rules of consensus in the Conference of Parties. Several countries blocked approval because of the belief that the Accords were both undemocratic and weak.
The current hope is that between now and December, the Copenhagen Accords can be negotiated upon so that all members of the COP are satisfied—leading to an international agreement on climate change.