Live from Copenhagen: So The Climate Talks Are Winding Down

Stephen Smith | December 18, 2009 | Climate Change

So the Climate talks are winding down, leaders of National governments are leaving town, including President Obama, it’s approaching midnight here in Copenhagen and I don’t believe we have a clear understanding of what, if any, “deal” has been done.

There was an unprecedented build up to these talks, tremendous hope and expectations from citizens around the world, especially young people who turn out in large numbers.

So where are we at Friday at midnight? Well it depends on who you ask.

Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director:

“The world’s nations have come together and concluded a historic–if incomplete–agreement to begin tackling global warming.  Tonight’s announcement is but a first step and much work remains to be done in the days and months ahead in order to seal a final international climate deal that is fair, binding, and ambitious.  It is imperative that negotiations resume as soon as possible.

“President Obama and the rest of the world paid a steep price here in Copenhagen because of obstructionism in the United States Senate.  That a deal was reached at all is testament to President Obama’s leadership–all the more remarkable because of the very weak hand he was dealt because of the Senate’s failure to pass domestic clean energy and climate legislation.  Now that the rest of the world–including countries like China and India–has made clear that it is willing to take action, the Senate must pass domestic legislation as soon as possible.  America and the world can no longer be held hostage to petty politics and obstructionism.

“What was clear over the past two weeks is that there is no argument over the science of global warming or the urgency with which we must act.  A parade of developed and developing counties alike made crystal clear that they would implement their national plans to tackle global warming and building the clean energy economy not because they were required to do so, but because it was simply in their own national interest to do so.

“The agreement reached here has all the ingredients necessary to construct a final treaty–a mitigation target of 2 degrees Celsius, nationally appropriate action plans, a mechanism for international climate finance, and transparency with regard to national commitments.  President Obama has made much progress in past 11 months and it now appears that the U.S.–and the world–is ready to do the hard work necessary to finish what was started here in Copenhagen.

“A chilly two weeks in Copenhagen has given humanity its best chance of preventing the ravages of a warming world.  Today’s deal is neither perfect nor complete, but we must not this chance slip away.”

Statement of Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., on tonight’s announcement by President Obama:

“Climate negotiations in Copenhagen have yielded a sham agreement with no real requirements for any countries. This is not a strong deal or a just one — it isn’t even a real one. It’s just repackaging old positions and pretending they’re new. The actions it suggests for the rich countries that caused the climate crisis are extraordinarily inadequate. This is a disastrous outcome for people around the world who face increasingly dire impacts from a destabilizing climate.

“The blame for the failure to achieve a real deal lies squarely on the rich countries whose pollution has caused the climate crisis — especially the United States. Rich countries refused to budge from the grossly inadequate emissions reduction proposals they brought to Copenhagen, and they failed to put sufficient money on the table so that poor countries that did not cause this crisis have the capacity to cope with it.

“With the future of all humans on this planet at stake, rich countries must muster far more political will than they exhibited here. If they do not, small island states will become submerged, people in vulnerable communities across the globe will be afflicted with hunger and disease, and wars over access to food and water will rage.

“The devastation will extend to those of us who live in wealthy countries. If we cannot find a way to cooperate with others to produce a real agreement to solve this problem, climate change impacts will devastate the U.S. economy, undermine our security, and inflict irreparable harm on future generations.

“The failure to produce anything meaningful in Copenhagen must serve as a wake up call to all who care about the future. It is a call to action. Corporate polluters and other special interests have such overwhelming influence that rich country governments are willing to agree only to fig leaf solutions. This is unacceptable, and it must change.

“Fortunately, while the cost of solving the climate crisis rises each day we fail to act, the crisis remains one that can largely be averted. It is up to the citizens of the world — especially citizens of the United States, which has so impeded progress — to mobilize and ensure that true solutions carry the day. I firmly believe that together, we can still achieve a politics in which climate justice prevails.

Statement of LCV President Gene Karpinski on Copenhagen Climate Deal:

“While there is still much work to be done, the deal reached in Copenhagen is a breakthrough for international climate cooperation and provides a path forward towards a binding global treaty in 2010. Significantly, the United States and China will — for the first time — both be at the table, working to tackle the historic challenge of global climate change.

“Moving forward, it is absolutely critical that the U.S. lead by example and work swiftly to enact comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation next year. We applaud President Obama for his leadership in helping to reach this important step toward a meaningful agreement.”

Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, had the following response:

“We all know what we must do to solve global warming, but even the architects of this deal acknowledge that it does not take those necessary steps. Merely acknowledging the weaknesses of the deal, as President Obama has done, does not excuse its failings. If this is the best we can do, it is not nearly good enough. We stand at the precipice of climatic tipping points beyond which a climate crash will be out of our control. We cannot make truly meaningful and historic steps with the United States pledging to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by only 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The science demands far more.

“The people of the United States voted for President Obama based on his promise of change and hope. But the only change today’s agreement brings is a greater risk of dangerous climate change. And the only hope that flows from Copenhagen stems not from the president’s hollow pronouncements but from the birth of a diverse global movement demanding real solutions and climate justice — demands made with a collective voice growing loud enough that in short order politicians will no longer be able to ignore it.”

Clearly there is still some unfinished business, the EU just postponed another press conference and some folks are still working on the “deal”, so while the White House folks issues a statement, things are still fluid.

One thing I know for sure at this point in time, today was the highest level and most significant round of engagement by world leaders on an environmental issue generally and global climate change specifically. The leaders of the US and China which together emit roughly 40% of the global warming pollution in the world hold our planet’s future in our hands. Clearly what has happen here has not been enough, but what is the final story is still being written. More to come.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has 30 years of experience effecting change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as its executive…
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