Stanley's blog

The Copenhagen conference was an unmitigated disaster as an exercise in global governance. The only hope is that it will act as a wake-up call for a real effort to be made to establish a system.

The exercise was doomed from the outset.

• We are still trying to solve the problem without fully identifying and agreeing upon it.
• Consensus is required among some 193 countries.
• There is still insufficient recognition of the reasons for climate change to convince public opinion in some countries, including the US, of its urgency.
• As the meeting was the culmination of two years’ negotiation, it is hard to believe that there was still debate over form and procedures, which meant that the meeting had been insufficiently prepared. The much heralded Scandinavian transparency was noticeably absent.
• Bringing in over 100 top leaders reduces the likelihood of concessions being made before they arrive. There were some 130 heads of government or state in Copenhagen. The Belgian delegation alone numbered 120.
• The entire approach seems to have been predicated upon the assumption that if you fix a time limit and engage prime ministers and presidents, it’ll come right in the end.
• There was no feeling that the countries are engaged in seeking a common solution to a common problem. Negotiations seem to have been a web of zero-sum games.
• Too many national leaders have failed to convince their publics as to the sacrifices that need to be made so as not to sacrifice their children’s and grandchildren’s future.
• Above all, there was a lack of mutual trust.

An 11th hour face-saving deal brokered by the US at least allowed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to welcome it euphemistically as an “essential beginning” – after a two year process and two weeks of intense negotiations, whose original object was to adopt unanimously a legally binding agreement!

The deal was agreed between the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The official declaration sets out the agreement but only “takes note of the Copenhagen Accord” of 18 December 2009 (“advance unedited version”), the key elements of the accord are:
• Recognition of the need to limit global temperatures rising no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
• Developed countries to deliver $30bn of aid to developing nations over the next three years. A goal was set to provide $100bn a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries, drawing on a variety of sources: “public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”
• The pledges of rich countries will come under “rigorous, robust and transparent” scrutiny under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
• Developing countries will submit national reports on their emissions pledges under a method “that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected.”
• Pledges on climate mitigation measures seeking international support will be recorded in a registry.”
• The implementation of the Copenhagen Accord will be reviewed by 2015.

The major unsatisfactory aspects are:

• The accord is not legally binding, and was merely “noted” by the 193 nations at the Copenhagen summit.
• 2°C is is a formal target. The group “recognises the scientific view that” the temperature increase should be held below this figure. It does not identify a year by which carbon emissions should peak. The size of CO² reduction targets has not been set
• The division of the annual fund between donors and between recipients has not been agreed.
• Countries are asked to spell out by 1 February 2010 their pledges for curbing carbon emissions by 2020, but there are no penalties for defaulters.
• The verification procedure is weak.
The document published on the official website contains two appendices:

I Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020.
This provides columns for “Annex I Parties” and their targets (stating base year); and

II Nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing country Parties. This provides columns for “Non Annex I Parties and actions

The columns are blank in both appendices.


Any international body with 193 national vetos cannot be sued for decision-making. The UN Conference should only address scientific and technical issues.

Political decisions should be taken in the G20 (or rather G16 with France, Germany, Italy & UK being part of the EU. The G16 probably represents about two-thirds of the world’s polluters and three-quarters of its GDP.

Consensus in the G6 will be hard to achieve but it is achievable, given the political will. But first out citizens need their leaders to make out a case for the pain they will have to suffer for their children’s and grandchildren’s gain.

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  1. “The Copenhagen conference was an unmitigated disaster as an exercise in global governance.”

    Thank heavens for small mercies.

    On a different subject – can anyone hear an echo in here? I’ve yet to read a single reaction to any of these blogs from anyone else. Am I the only one who ever visits, the site, or am I the only one who takes you seriously enough to respond?

  2. @Stanley, id be very interested in your opinion on the Chinese involvement in the process, particlularily in light of the following article. How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room

    Ive heard from others, that China was right to object due to the 2050 population figures, where Annex 1 countries will only have 1 billion people as compared to 7 billion in Annex 2, and hence an 80% reduction for annex 1 by 2050, was not enough. (bit scary as 80% is going to be a revolution)

    @ Paul, I dont think you are the only person who visits the site, but over Christmas perhaps… Euractiv, Blogactiv traffic is primarily proffessional. Id hazard to guess that most if not all in Brussels – are Lurkers – much higher than the 90%. I dont have the figures, but Stuart who manages this portal can probably give details.

    ‘ In Internet culture, a lurker is a person who reads discussions but rarely or never participates actively. Research indicates that “lurkers make up over 90% of online groups” (Nonnecke & Preece 2000). Lack of trust represents one of the reasons explaining lurking behavior (Ridings, Gefen & Arinze 2006).

  3. Dale – grateful for the sign of life, and for the explanation. I’m not 100% convinced, though, because I’ve contributed to one or two other threads here, and seen no response at all.

    My most immediate reaction to Stanley’s article was relief at the failure of his amibitions re. “global governance” which, for a democrat, is the stuff of nightmare. On the other hand, I don’t know any of the details you quote about Chinese population figures, so I’ll resume my lurking.

  4. Hi Paul / Dale / Stanley,

    I promise that there are real people visiting, even at this time of year. However, a lack of comments is something we suffer from on Blogactiv. My own opinion is that it is in part because of the level of detail provided and reputation of many of our bloggers. If Stanley says something is bad, I am inclined to agree as is and not debate the point. He – as with many of our other bloggers – knows ‘his stuff’.

    Right now, I’d guess that we probably get 1 comment per 80 unique visitors. Offhand, I don’t know if that is good or bad for the blogosphere as a whole.

    With regards to the actual post, Stanley, I agree with much that you write. Especially that the major decision making needs to be between a smaller group of countries. But that said, I heard a number of people at COP15 tell me that ‘Africa is voting as one’, which in itself must be unprecedented.

    However, I would like to address a point that isn’t often covered. In the ‘real world’, outside of the Brussels bubble and other places with equally well-informed inhabitants, average people still see politicians bickering over whether climate change is actually real. The political class give off many mixed messages.

    The mere fact that virtually every national leader in the world was broadcast to his or her home nation saying something along the lines of, “climate change is real, we need to do something and fast”, was a major step forward to my mind.

  5. “The mere fact that virtually every national leader in the world was broadcast to his or her home nation saying something along the lines of, “climate change is real, we need to do something and fast”, was a major step forward to my mind.”

    Your faith in politicians is touching. It’s probably understating it to say that consensus between politicians doesn’t reduce my scepticism. I’m unlikely to be alone in this respect.

    And a happy new year to all (any) readers, by the way.

  6. Paul
    I’d love to have more comments but most of my readers are not the commenting types or comment direct to me

    I’ve read dozens of accounts of what happened in Copenhagen and can reach no clear conclusion. But I prefer the chaos theory to the conspiracy one

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