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In the aftermath of Copenhagen

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After three years of planning, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference ended in what many describe as a failure. But is it fair to describe COP15 as a failure, or are we better off than we were before?

UN News & Media

Connie Hedegaard, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Ban Ki-moon & Yvo de Boer

Speaking at the hearing at the European Parliament for designated new commissioners, former Danish Minister for the Environment and Head of the COP Connie Hedegaard said Friday 15 January that something very good did come from the conference. For the first time in history, countries on both side of the wealth divide agreed that doing nothing is no longer an option for anyone.

So even though world leaders could not agree on a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen, they did agree that climate change is a serious problem that affects us all. And more importantly, they agreed to set national schemes to curb their carbon emissions.

Where are we now

Climate change now holds the attention of the world. The peoples of the world have spoken. Some 100,000 people gathered on 12 December in Copenhagen for the biggest climate change demonstration ever. Through immense amount of media attention, we have all come to understand that this is a serious problem. The only question that remains is; have the leaders of the world also understood the seriousness of climate change?

Photo by Jens Dalby

Coolplanet2009 team: Kristin Marie Skaar & Trine Gram Nielsen at the
12 December demonstration in Copenhagen.
Photo: Jens Dalby

During 2010, many different events will take place to pick up where the COP15 ended. The first event of the year was the UNFCCC press briefing in Bonn, Germany, 21 January, where UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer addressed not only the world press, but all of us, to answer the question of where to go from here.

According to Yvo de Boer, the Copenhagen Accord represents a political letter of intent to:

  • Reduce national emissions and sets a global temperature rise limit of two degrees.
  • Define amounts of short and long-term finance to implement climate change action in developing nations.
  • Set 2015 as the review year to check if global action by then needs to be more urgent to meet the challenges.

Where to go from here

The deadline for developed countries to report back on their emission targets is set to 31 January 2010. Developing countries have the same deadline for reporting their reduction initiatives. However, at the press conference in Bonn, it turned out that this deadline is not binding after all. The deadline is not likely to be kept by all countries, which, according to Yvo de Boer, is fine as long as the end result is good.

One of the reasons why the deadline is not absolute is that not all governments have passed the proposal in their national assemblies yet. Furthermore, by not having an absolute deadline, countries have the chance of making even more severe emission cuts, than they would otherwise have done, said Yvo de Boer.

Events of the year

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, World Environment Day is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. This year, World Environment Day will take place under the theme “Biodiversity — Ecosystems Management and the Green Economy.” Government officials, businesses, organizations and individuals will schedule a series of World Environment Day events, as well as events taking place during the six weeks that “bridge the gap” between Earth Day on April 22 and World Environment Day on June 5.

The highlight of the year will be the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December. The conference is officially referred to as the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP6) to the Kyoto Protocol.

As Yvo de Boer said at the press conference in Bonn; “Copenhagen didn’t produce the final cake, but it left the countries with the right ingredients to bake a new one.”


Copyright, United Nations, UNRIC, 2009. All rights reserved.