Last Post from Copenhagen

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Friday morning, I braved the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures and hopped on the train around 7.30 a.m. to avoid what was billed as "extensive delays" as the 119 heads of state would be making their way to the Bella Center. 

The main questions on the train were "when does he touch down?", "has he arrived?", and "will he be able to help seal the deal?" And just after 9 a.m., Barack Obama's Air Force One touched down at Copenhagen Airport. 

Meanwhile, delegates had been hard at work for much of the night. We understood that 26 ministers met the night between Thursday and Friday, preparing the core document for the leaders.

On Friday we spent a lot of time waiting. First we waited for the Heads of State to take their seats.  Word in the corridors had it that they had agreed to 2 degrees, which would imply serious emission reductions, as well as to the provision of long term finance. The issue of whether any agreement on emissions reduction is "MRV-able", i.e. whether emission reductions are monitorable, reportable and verifiable, has been key when it comes to reductions from the economies in transition such as India, China, Brazil, and others. These countries can only accept MRV on the condition that the developed countries make an ambitious and legally binding target for emission reductions.  The developed countries, meanwhile, have put serious cash on the table, on the condition that the big emerging economies will commit to MRV. Further, the governance and financial architecture of the resources, should they be realized, remained unclear. The G-77 has pushed direct access to the financial mechanism, as well as for giving the COP the power to appoint the Board for the mechanism, while other countries have been more comfortable drawing on existing financial institutions and mechanisms.

Around mid-day on Friday, we heard that Obama, the Danish PM and some five other Heads of State were closeted in a room seeking to hammer out a deal. Meanwhile the remaining heads of state were "hanging out" in the plenary, chatting and waiting.

Obama made his speech, followed by many other heads of state or prime ministers, including China, Brazil, South Africa and many others. As the speeches were made, it became increasingly evident to the clued-in listener that the parties were very, very far apart.

Time running out for climate deal, warned Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at around 1 pm.  He urged the heads of state gathering at the Climate Change Summit to exercise flexibility to reach a consensus.

Common but differentiated, was the refrain in many of the G-77 plus China statements.  That is, yes, we, the emerging or developing country economies will make targets, but we will not be submitted to verification or monitoring and we will not halt our legitimate development.

We are all Maldivians” stated the Prime Minister of the Maldives, Mohammed Nashid. He and many other countries which stand to be first in line for severe climate impacts, wanted a deal, even an imperfect deal. Prime Minister Nashid pointed out that even if all OECD countries went carbon neutral tomorrow, this would still mean a temperature increase of 4.5 degrees and thus the disappearance of his country. PM Nashid therefore asked for meaningful reduction commitments by all countries, developed and developing.  The small island states have been pushing for emissions reductions which would lead to only 1.5 degrees temperature increase.

So what was agreed at Copenhagen? While it was not as ambitious as some would have liked and while it was not endorsed unanimously, a large majority of countries endorsed the “Copenhagen Accord”. The Accord, which was first shaped in smaller side meetings with President Obama, Premier Wen Jiabao, and PM Manmohan Singh and other key players participating, was then hotly debated through the night between Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th.  On a night of the most bizarre drama ever seen in a large multilateral negotiation with nail-biting tension, on-again-off-again agreements and emotional outbursts, a compromise was finally reached in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The meeting agreed to a decision to take note of the Copenhagen Accord with the text attached and an annex to the text listing the countries which supported the accord. 

So what does the accord actually mean?

"Deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science...with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius." 

A reference in an earlier draft to adopt a legally binding climate agreement by next year was missing in the final draft. This upset a number of other nations, but it was part of a compromise move.

The text indicates that "Developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries."
In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.
Text mentions that the least developed countries, small island developing states and countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable and in need of help.


Details of mitigation plans are included in two separate annexes, one for developed country targets and one for the voluntary pledges of major developing countries.
These are not binding, and describe the current status of pledges -- ranging from "under consideration" for the United States to "Adopted by legislation" for the European Union.


A sticking point for a deal, largely because key countries refused to accept international controls, the section on monitoring of developing nation pledges is one of the longest in the accord.
Text says emerging economies must monitor their efforts and report the results to the United Nations every two years, with some international checks to meet transparency concerns but "to ensure that national sovereignty is respected."


The accord "recognizes the importance of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals or greenhouse gas emission by forests," and agrees to provide "positive incentives" to fund such action with financial resources from the developed world.  The wording “REDD plus” signifies that soil carbon remains in the game, but the finer details clearly need to be worked out.


Mentioned, but not in detail. The accord says: "We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets to promote mitigation actions and enhance their cost-effectiveness.
Emissions reductions announced.  In addition, in the speeches by many of the heads of state, serious emissions reductions commitments were made.  For the first time, the majority of the world’s countries have offered to reduce their emissions, including but not limited to:

  • US - 17% by 2020 (below 2005 levels)
  • EU-20% by 2020 (below 1990)
  • China - 40-45% by 2020 (below 2005 levels, energy intensity)
  • India - 20-25% by 2020 (below 2005 levels, energy intensity)
  • Brazil - 21-25% by 2020 (below 2005 levels)

And now, on to Christmas in Copenhagen. Copenhagen, shooting for Hopenhagen, fears of Brokenhagen, but saved by the bell and now back to being good old Snowpenhagen.The city is incredibly pretty this morning.  The city is preparing for the holidays.  Heavy overnight snow has decorated the buildings, the parks and the many parked bicycles.  The city lies covered with billions of snow diamonds twinkling in the straining rays of the distant low afternoon sun.  The thick snow crunches under the feet of last minute shoppers as they scurry from one store to the other. It is very cold here.  Last night was minus 19 Celsius.  But Danes have never-ending winter gear in their closets, so the street is full of bicycles, nevertheless.

Ok, so the deal was not as ambitious as many – including me – had hoped for. And all right, it was not legally binding.  But the agreement represents a massive step forward. The US as well as China, India and Brazil are now a party to emission reduction targets; serious money is on the table; Africa and other LDCs are recognized as a priority for adaptation. We have much work ahead of us. 

Because even on this freezing day in Copenhagen, we are all Maldivians.



Inger Andersen

Former Vice President, Middle East & North Africa

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