December 18, 2009 marked the conclusion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. As widely expected in the months leading up to the conference, the parties did not reach a legally binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires after 2012. Instead, the Parties “took note” of a non-binding political deal negotiated by the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

The following are key elements of this Copenhagen Accord:

  • The Parties recognized that to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate, the increase in the global temperature should be kept below 2 degrees Celsius, with countries taking equitable action to make the deep emission cuts necessary to achieve this objective.
  • Perhaps the most tangible outcome of the negotiations, developed countries committed to providing nearly US$30 billion in new funding to developing countries between 2010 and 2012, the amount to be allocated both to adaptation and to mitigation activities. The United States, the European Union and Japan have pledged to provide the bulk of this funding. In addition, developed countries committed to the goal of mobilizing US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.
  • The Parties agreed that a significant portion of this funding would flow through a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, which would support mitigation, adaptation, capacity-building and technology development and transfer activities. However, important details of the funding mechanics remain subject to debate.
  • Developed countries committed to implementing 2020 emissions-reduction targets, which they are to set out by January 31, 2010. In this regard, the Canadian federal government has reiterated its commitment, at least on paper, to reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 2006 levels by 2020.
  • Developing countries committed to implementing nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs), which they are to set out by January 31, 2010. The international verification of any developing country’s NAMAs remains a contentious issue.
  • The Parties decided to establish a Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer activities.
  • The Parties agreed to establish a mechanism that would enable efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus), particularly by mobilizing investments in REDD-plus projects from developed countries.
  • The Parties called for an assessment of the implementation of the Copenhagen Accord to be completed by 2015. Notably, the Accord did not contain any commitment to reach a legally binding agreement in 2010, an outcome for which many commentators had hoped.

For further information, please see the Conference website.