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Copenhagen Climate Summit: A Climate Group Assessment

Date
11 January 2010
Download (108 KB .pdf)

The 15th UN Climate Conference concluded late last month with the ambiguous adoption, or noting, of a Copenhagen Accord. This political document was delivered at the end of two weeks of tense and often confusing negotiations. Its exact legal status and hence its implications - remain the subject of debate and it leaves unanswered many of the difficult questions that have bedeviled climate negotiations for much of the past two years.

Despite this, the Copenhagen Accord represents an important milestone in international efforts to address climate change. For the first time, the US, China and all other major economies have committed to take concrete and verifiable action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; new money has been put on the table; and a long-term objective keeping the average global temperature increase to below 2 above pre-industrial levels has been adopted.

While many details are still to be determined, the Accord contains the seeds for a new, country-driven, bottom-up approach to tackling climate change that could potentially offer an effective route to accelerated global emission reductions. The risks, however, are considerable. In the absence of any internationally agreed medium- and long-term emission targets, backed by a legally-binding agreement, much will depend on whether governments embrace a race to the top mentality or succumb to lowest common denominator climate policies. The next 12-24 months will be critical in determining which path countries choose.

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The remainder of this paper is divided into the following four short sections:

  • A summary of the key events during the two week summit
  • A brief overview of the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord
  • Our assessment of the Accord
  • Our assessment of the impacts and implications for the US, China, the EU and India.

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