Copenhagen Accord marks new starting point for global fight against climate change

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How much can the global temperature rise without serious environmental consequences? When should the emissions be peaked? As scientific research has different interpretations, views of different countries also varied.

Some developed countries led by the European Union (EU) insisted the increase of global temperature should be capped at two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

Meanwhile, island countries and some African countries, which are the most vulnerable to global warming, called at the conference for a maximum rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. They also demanded global emissions peak by 2015.

A lower cap on temperature rise and an earlier deadline for emission peak mean deeper cuts should be made.

However, unlike developed countries which have already completed industrialization, many developing countries face the urgent task to develop and reduce poverty. A right balance between reduction and development should be found.

Taking into account the particular concern of vulnerable countries, the Copenhagen Accord, for the first time, recognized the scientific view that "the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius."

But it also acknowledged the time frame for peaking would be longer in developing countries, and stressed "social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries."


At the Copenhagen conference, developed countries and developing ones also wrangled over the issues of financial support and transparency of mitigation measures.

Developing countries said rich nations were historically responsible for global warming, so the financial support they provided to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change should not be considered a favor.

"Let's not think that they (developed countries) are giving something to us that we are begging for. The money that will be put on the table is the payment of greenhouse gas emissions that were made over two centuries," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told the conference.

While reluctant to make financial commitments, developed countries had tried to link the issue of money with transparency, forcing developing countries to accept international monitoring of their national mitigation actions.

The move was rejected by developing countries for fear of intrusion on national sovereignty.

"These papers cannot threaten the individual sovereignty of each country; each country has to have the competence to do its own oversight," Lula said.

In the Copenhagen Accord, developed countries, for the first time, released figures for their medium-term financial support to developing countries.

"Developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion U.S. dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries," the accord said.

On transparency, the accord said mitigation actions taken by developing countries would be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification.

But as a compromise, developing countries are expected to provide information on the implementation of their actions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines which would make sure that national sovereignty is respected.

Although the Copenhagen Accord is simply a political agreement rather than a legally-binding one, falling short of expectations, UN's Ban said it was a significant step toward a binding treaty.

"It is not perfect at this time, but it was a very important and very significant step forward," he said.

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