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Copenhagen Climate Summit Ends – What Did They Accomplish?

Reviewing highlights of the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

"The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,… Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately." And so ends the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

But what did the participants agree to? Was it substantial enough to make a difference? Did they silence the skeptics? Will Sarah Palin finally believe Alaska is melting into the North Pacific?

Long Beach port and oil island - major source of pollution for LA BasinGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel defends the Copenhagen climate summit. In an interview with the German news source Bild am Sonntag Merkel stated "Copenhagen is a first step toward a new world climate order - no more, but also no less. Anyone who just badmouths Copenhagen now is engaging in the business of those who are applying the brakes rather than moving forward."

The climate conference ended Saturday with 192 participating nations walking away with the "Copenhagen Accord," a deal brokered between China, South Africa, India, Brazil and the US.

The "Accord" can really be brought into one statement:

To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.

How the global community gets to that objective resulted in a non-binding acknowledgement that doesn't set hard numbers on reducing carbon emissions, specific timelines, or penalties on violators.

It does agree to provide $30bn in funding for poor countries to the "adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures" from next year (2010) to 2012, and $100bn a year after 2020.

The "Accord" not cites carbon emissions as an issue, but also deforestation.

We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.

Oddly, or maybe not, China (as the world's largest source of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas) applauded the "Accord." Maybe the "non-binding" nature of the "Accord" gave China some relief, or maybe China has simply accepted their role and responsibility in providing global leadership in reducing harmful toxins into our environment.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China believes the Copenhagen Summit produced "significant and positive" results. "Developing and developed countries are very different in their historical emissions responsibilities and current emissions levels, and in their basic national characteristics and development stages," Yang said in a statement. "Therefore, they should shoulder different responsibilities and obligations in fighting climate change." (Xinhua)

President Barack Obama stated "a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough" was made in Copenhagen. "All major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change." (from Press Conference in Copenhagen)

But there are skeptics

No event is perfect. When you get representatives from 192 nations in a room, teamwork is probably a fantasy none of us should harbor. A small island nation may wish to defend their island from rising oceans, where an oil-producing country may want to defend their industry.

Communist and socialist countries may have an agenda, religious leaders an agenda, democracies an agenda, and superpowers an agenda. So as expected, not everybody walked away from the conference with warm words for the "Accord."

  • Venezuala – International thought leader Hugo Chavez stated "If it's to go and waste time, it's better I don't go," he said. "If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it."
  • Bolivia - Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
  • Ethiopia - Director General of the Ethiopian Environment Protection Agency, Dr Tewolde Birhan Gebre-Egziabher
    beleives Africa is already suffering, and likely to suffer more from climate change, but contributes very little to climate change.
  • Nepal - Prime Minister Madhav Kumar highlighted his concern of the "seriousness of the problem of climate change" particularly for the least developed and vulnerable countries. He adds that Nepal urges special focus on the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, in Nepal and elsewhere.
  • UK - Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said "If leading countries hold out against something like 'legally binding' or against the 2050 target of 50 per cent reductions in carbon emissions - which was held out against by countries like China - you are not going to get the agreement you want." (COPS15 )

And so on.

The important thing to remember…

The important thing to remember is that we, as a planet, were able to get 192 nations together to agree on one important point – climate change is occurring, and human bei9ngs are part of the problem. If we do not get control over global warming, our planet will not be able to support life in the longer term.

Every media source in the world focused attention on the issue for the better part of two weeks. Even Fox News, acrimonious as they are, provided a lot of coverage. Regardless of polls stating the roller-coaster of public opinion on global warming vs. job loss, 90% or more of the global population will now at least look at a bus spewing black clouds of exhaust into the air, deforestation, and thousands of 2-stroke motor scooters crowding streets as something that is not healthy for the planet.

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, the result is your position will now need defense – defense that it is not destructive to the planet, defense a Hummer/2 used to buy beer in a West Virginia country town is your inherent right as an American, or defense that every energy-related decision should include an environmental impact question.

More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.

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