Back in Brussels I have decide to read the Copenhagen Accord and many of the commentaries from the news and media. I can’t say that the results were what we expected, but that is not so strange. If you have followed this blog or any of the other accounts from different sources, you’ve surely noticed that the negotiations were never very clear from the start. We never had a clear idea about where the negotiations were going, and we’ve tried to transmit this. Although I think we were hoping for something along the lines of Kyoto or Bali. Time will allow us to further analyze this in more detail. For now, I propose some reflections, which is what we can offer at this time. First the reaction groups:
They don’t want to do anything. This has been the great accusation from many of the countries and journalists. In the end, the developed countries refuse to validate the scientific data. But by their non-action, their refusal to formalize any agreement, they are only legitimizing our scepticism. In the end, the developed counties don’t want to act because of the threats this presents to their economies and their positions of dominance.
A lost opportunity. After two years of hard work and negotiating, of preparation and organization, we have nothing. There has been no progress. The Agreement is not legally binding. It speaks of the objective to reduce global warming to under 2º C, but it does not propose by when or under what conditions. Nor does it specify the limit of greenhouse gas emissions. It only states: ‘As soon as possible’, which is not very precise. Developed countries will communicate their goals toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to the Convention Secretary by January 31. The document even has the last three sections left blank, with charts meant ‘to be filled-in’. Developing countries will communicate their goals every two years, on a voluntary basis. There will be an international evaluation of these goals, but there will be no process of real ‘verification’. The sovereignty of the countries remains above all compromise.
A step forward. Given the difficulties of establishing an ambitious and legally binding agreement, there has been some progress. There is a financial agreement for the years 2010 and 2012 of 10 billion dollars. This is for the mitigation and adaptation of climate changes in under-developed countries. Another ambitious goal is to mobilize 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. An impressive amount of money. Many doubts remain: How will this fund be controlled? And will this funding be new money or will it be recycled from what there actually is?
There is progress in a good direction. For those that defend this position, especially the leaders of the United States and other developed countries; the agreement proves that there is political will to face these problems. They see the need to move forward in this regard. The presence of so many heads of State is proof that there is a desire to move forward. The rest of the goals will eventually fall into place.
Secondly, some brief reflections:
The expectations were very high. Much ground was gained in the negotiations. Countries were able to specify their positions, goals and economic possibilities. The plan was very ambitious. In the end, the reduction of greenhouse gases called for a major shift in textile industries and in the economic activity. It is not that all the smokes stacks must be immediately stopped-up and closed or there be some sort of tax. Millions of jobs are at stake and must be considered, as well as industrial production and competitive markets. In theory these areas had been talked about before, but as we’ve seen they were not really, or not as they should have. There did not seem to be a convincing discernment regarding these issues.
The role of science. All together, the sciences come out ahead. There is still scientific scepticism, but there has been progress. The panel of scientists was able to clarify areas of certainty, areas of much probability, and areas of limited probability. The environmental threat is there, and it is probably more serious that it seemed before. The role of scientists will be even greater in the future.
The weakness of the United Nations. As the negotiations progressed, the presence of the UN became more and more diluted. The UN is based on a principle of equality in representation (except in the Security Council where only five countries have a vote), which is why there were endless sessions at the Convention. All representatives had a voice at one time or another. The UN tried to maintain this aspect of its identity. But at Copenhagen the United States and China tipped the balance and, with the help of other countries, broke down the proceedings. The document was approved by all but five countries, which helped to stabilize the Conference. But the UN stood on weak ground. Any future global initiative will have to re-enforce this institution.
Deep convictions for profound change. We are victims of our time, and the media and mass communications condition our time. Things must happen now in order to advance. But other entities do not always move so fast, such as the economy or politics. Copenhagen is proposing a profound change of global perspective. We’re not talking about some technical adjustments. Instead, humanity must be willing to follow some rules. For some, these will present challenges, for others, limitations. But for the vast majority, this is the future. This is a great challenge to all, one that demands the willpower of many. In this sense, we believers have to help in any way that we can. We must recognize that God, who is our Creator, sustains the world, and that we look for the reconciliation of all creation and all beings with the Creator. We know that this reconciliation will be complete only in the Creator. This is the great mission in our call to be Christians, not to say that there is much to be done, but to participate more fully. Above all, together, with all of those who make it possible each and every day, we must maintain hope.