The United Nations' climate summit at Copenhagen, officially known as COP-15, has been unofficially dubbed "Klimafarce" by the Danish press, because leaders of the 194 negotiating nations failed to reach a legally binding international climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the result of the summit is the "Copenhagen Accord," proposed by a U.S.-led alliance (with China, Brazil, India, and South Africa) dated December 18, 2009.
Just shy of three pages long, the Accord has been highly criticized for being vague, heavily caveated, and not legally binding. The Accord, which was merely "noted" at the summit and not formally adopted (which requires the consensus of all of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), is far from the binding international treaty for which many nations had hoped.
It was envisaged that any agreement would contain specific emission reduction targets for the developed countries to ensure that the rise in global average temperatures was kept below 2°C. Instead, the Accord allows developed countries to set their own emission reduction pledges for the year 2020 as they see fit, with no sanctions for failure to comply with their pledges. This failure to reach a binding agreement has heightened concern that temperature rises will exceed 3°C.
On a positive note, the Accord does provide for the creation of a financial system to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change. Developed countries pledge to provide $30 billion from 2010 to 2012, increasing to $100 billion a year by 2020, to developing countries for such adaptation and mitigation measures. Further, the Accord envisages the establishment of a "Copenhagen Green Climate Fund" to administer a "significant" proportion of this money, although very little information has been provided on this new fund.
Despite these provisions, there is no certainty that these amounts will actually be paid. Indeed, a European Commission official stated on December 22, 2009, that the EU will not release the climate funding it has pledged for developing countries until all parties to the UNFCCC adopt the Accord. Given the lack of consensus regarding the Accord at the Copenhagen summit, this may be a insurmountable obstacle.
Additionally, the Accord covers how emission reductions by developed countries and mitigation actions by developing countries can be measured, reported, and verified. It also provides, albeit in vague terms, for establishment of a technology mechanism to encourage the transfer of technology on mitigation and adaptation to developing countries. The Accord also favors developed countries' paying developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, known as "REDD." The implementation of the Accord is to be reviewed in 2015, although there is hope that a binding agreement will be reached at the next UN climate summit, to be held in Mexico in 2010.
Despite the shortcomings of the Accord, the Copenhagen summit succeeded in putting the issue of climate change on the center stage of global issues. As China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, stated: "The Copenhagen Conference is not a destination but a new beginning." In the absence of international leadership and binding commitments, responsibility for adaptation and mitigation of its impacts may ultimately rest with individual countries and businesses.