This past December, dressed in down coats and lined boots, representatives from over 190 countries met on the darkest and coldest days of the year in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss, of all things, legislation to prevent global temperatures from rising any higher. Over the course of two weeks, the 2009 United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, hailed by world leaders and environmentalists as a bone fide opportunity to create international climatechange legislation, quickly turned into a tangled web of negotiations and power struggles. It was only in the eleventh hour that an agreement was reached and the Copenhagen Accord was born. The most concrete plan emerging from the conference was the creation of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, a three-year, thirty-billion-dollar global fund backed by developed nations to aid developing countries in dealing with the environmental impacts of climate change—like floods and droughts—and to provide financial support for building clean-energy economies. A long-term goal of raising 100 billion dollars for the fund by 2020 was agreed upon by participating nations.
Wealthy nations that signed the accord committed to cutting carbon emissions while developing countries pledged to take measures to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions. The deal, however, is not legally binding, and the accord lacks any time frame for the creation of a legal international treaty. Participating nations also agreed to cap the temperature increase at two degrees celsius, though it is unclear how this goal will be met since the fifty-percent emissionreduction plan necessary to meet the temperature cap was dropped at the last minute.
The true test of the Copenhagen Climate Summit will be seen in the coming months as nations draft their own detailed pledges for action, which will be entered into an appendix to the accord later in the year. As the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol— signed by 187 nations in 1997—approaches, environmentalists are concerned with ensuring that more stringent controls on emissions are in place in the next few years. As we leave the turn of the twenty-first century, marked with relative apathy towards climate change and global environmental negligence, 2010 will be a barometer for what environmental progress the coming decade will bring.
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