Despite Copenhagen, a binding pact to fight global warming is still attainable
Hopes that an international agreement on limiting destructive greenhouse gas emissions might be reached later this year at the UN climate change conference in Mexico were all but obliterated last week with statements that a new legally binding pact isn’t likely to occur before 2011.
Recognising that a number of foreign countries now think it all but impossible to reach a new, strengthened post-Kyoto treaty in Cancun in December, the European Commission says it is working towards securing a signed deal that increases the fight against global warming the following year in South Africa.
Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, said that while she would personally like to see an agreement reached in Cancun, the commission is already looking towards the UN climate change conference in South Africa for the needed international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it lapses after 2013.
Lamenting the fact that the world was unable to arrive at a binding treaty in Denmark last December, Hedegaard said climate change can’t be controlled unless all countries that emit large amounts of CO₂ work together.
“In Copenhagen the world had a unique chance and did not use this to its full,” Hedegaard said. “We now have to secure the momentum and to do our utmost to get specific and substantial results out of Cancun and to secure no later than in South Africa an agreement on the legal form.”
She also said that even if the non-binding Copenhagen Accord fell short of Europe's ambitions, the increasing support for it around the world provides the EU with an important opportunity.
“The most convincing leadership Europe can show is to take tangible and determined action to become the most climate friendly region in the world, which will also strengthen our energy security, stimulate greener economic growth and create new jobs.”
Hedegaard’s comments about an agreement likely not being reached prior to next year’s climate change conference in South Africa echoed statements made by UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, who is retiring from his position, and others around the world who are involved in the global warming climate portfolio.
They also serve to demonstrate how the considerable international momentum on reaching a new agreement to dramatically limit greenhouse gases that was built up in the months leading to the Copenhagen meeting has recently sputtered, and stalled.
And yet, there is some tangible recent progress in the battle to resolve the greatest challenge facing humankind.
As the European Commission’s strategy last week “to reinvigorate global action after Copenhagen” notes, the Accord endorses the EU's objective to keep global warming below 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
The commission strategy also says that industrialised and developing countries representing more than 80% of global greenhouse gases emissions have inscribed their emission targets or actions in the Accord. It is worth noting that China and India, both major emitters of greenhouse gases, have now formally agreed to be listed as parties to the Accord.
And so, while it was frustrating that the world could not come together in Copenhagen, the international movement to fight an effective war against global warming is far from over. Indeed, as the Commission’s strategy document last week noted, there is still much to be done to get the world’s nations to cooperate effectively on mitigating climate change.
Also noteworthy is the continued need for a new green energy revolution that says goodbye to the business as usual scenario with its destructively polluting fossil fuels that overheat the atmosphere and hello to emissions-free wind power and other renewables which represent society’s best hope for the future.
The solutions to global warming, such as wind power, are already there. Hopefully, international political leadership will very soon agree.
By Chris Rose, EWEA