EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘EU looks beyond ‘weak’ Copenhagen deal‘:

After 10 days of almost painfully tiresome diplomacy, the Copenhagen Climate Conference resulted in a rather fruitless accord. The text is merely three pages long and was submitted in the early hours of 19 December by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso declared that he could not hide his disappointment, as did many other world leaders. If the aim was to deliver a global, ambitious, comprehensive and legally-binding agreement, then it can surely be concluded that the final outcome is a complete fiasco.

The current Copenhagen Accord:

  • Does not commit its signatories to any legally-binding targets;
  • In fact, it does not contain any targets as to emission reduction, neither long-term nor mid-term;
  • It fails to set a stable carbon price for investments in low-carbon technologies to expand, and;
  • It fails to create a comprehensive framework to include all industries (with some loopholes as to whether shipping and aviation, which contribute 5% of all global emissions, are included).

More importantly, it fails to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries which is crucial in order to tackle the global climate change crisis unilaterally

And on almost every point agreed, it lacks detail as to operation, financing, monitoring, etc.

What does the new accord contain?

  • A vague statement on the urgent need to combat climate change and contain the global rises in temperature below 2ºC;
  • It sets 31 January 2010 as the deadline for submission of national plans to curb climate change (requiring quantified reduction targets from the Annex I Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, and comparable mitigation actions for the Non-Annex I Parties);
  • It recognises that measures must be taken to combat deforestation (which contributes 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions) and calls for the establishment of a fund to finance REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries);
  • It commits $30 billion for the period 2010-2012 and $100 billion a year by 2020 for financing mitigation adaptation measures in the developing countries;
  • It approves an as-yet-undefined mechanism for North-South technology transfer;
  • It launches the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, precise financing of which is yet to be decided;
  • It provides for some measurement, reporting and verification activities with regard to the developing countries domestic programmes.

Trying to deal with such a complex problem as climate change in a single set of negotiations was from the very start bound to fail. Man-made global warming comes from CO2, as well as many other gases such as HFCs, black carbon, methane and nitrogen. Each of these have various origins, and acting on all of them in the forum of 193 different countries would have always been almost unfeasible to say the least.

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 should be invoked here: it was tremendously successful in preventing the use of ozone-depleting CFCs, because it was clear and straight-forward.

Another problem is the initial split between developing and developed countries, which can be attributed as one of the main reasons for the Kyoto Protocol’s failure to curb climate change in the first place.

Not only would the US never sign a treaty that required nothing from countries like China and India; but the very logic behind the binary split seems rather questionable. While the EU and the US (with the latter never having ratified the protocol) have until recently held openly opposing views on the climate change quandary despite being in one category of developed countries, the hitch with regard to the developing camp is even more acute: how can countries like China and Mexico have similar negotiation positions to the poorest nations with the likes of the Seychelles Islands, which risk being wiped from the Earth as a result of increasing global temperatures?

The Copenhagen failure can, hopefully, push the international community to act in other ways and establish new forums for dealing with such a complex issue as climate change.

Acting on a national level, with domestic plans designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, can be one way. However, despite recent blood-chilling data and passionate environmentalists’ campaigns, the ambition is lacking: the offers on the table add up to around a 15% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2020, compared to the 25-40% reduction necessary.

Another, probably more effective, way would be to allow the formation of coalitions of the willing for specific purposes: one such example can be the EU, Mexico and Brazil that have been cooperating and sharing a common position on many issues at Copenhagen. After various coalitions have come up with their detailed agreements, the UN can be used to either endorse or reject them.

The next COP conference will take place in Mexico on 29 November 2010. It remains to be seen whether more numerical targets and more detail will be on the negotiation table by then.

Julija Poliscanova

Author :


  1. Dear Sir,

    The Climate Change Summit at Copenhagen could not arrive at an amicable solution. The reason is that everyone is telling the other what they should do, some of these issues also infringe into the rights of other Sovereign Nations as well.

    When will all the countries come together, it is when there is a good business proposal that is profitable to all the stakeholders and at the same time the climate change issues are also addressed. The business that can meet these challenges as well as address the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals that is to bring prosperity to 50% of the low income families by 2015 is Biodiesel and Ethanol projects.

    When we look at most of the countries of the world their largest import bill is crude oil or fuels like diesel and petrol. The developing countries can replace these by growing oil seed bearing trees like Jatropha.

    Europe and USA have been using Biodiesel and Ethanol successfully. The Biodiesel production in Europe was 7.4mill tons in 2009. Europe consumes 275mill tons of diesel per annum and European Commission had set a target of 5.75% by 2010 but they could achieve only 2.8%. There is also new policy to use 20% by 2020. They could not increase Biodiesel production for three reasons, one for lack of sufficient land to grow more Rapeseed, this oil is used as feedstock to produce Biodiesel, the second reason is that Rapeseed is edible oil and so there is competition from the food sector and the prices are market driven hence it is not economical and the third reason is that European governments had given 100% fuel tax concession because of this the production grew up very fast but the governments are loosing a large amount of revenue so they have now started to reintroduce tax this makes the Biodiesel industry unviable and so the projects are not sustainable.

    The solution lies in utilizing the strengths of developing countries like; The large area of unused and under utilized lands, the low cost manpower and the tropical climate to grow oil seed bearing trees.

    The developing countries where the majority of the low income people live can grow the oil seed bearing trees and supply the oil seeds to the Biodiesel industry this will improve their income and bring them to prosperity. Use the jatropha fruit shell to produce electricity locally and supply to the rural community, biogas can be produced from the oil cake for the use of the community and they also have oil cake which is a very good bio-fertilizer this comes to them free of cost.

    In spite of all these advantages and even after very many presentations why do these projects not get the support that it requires why?

    If good Biofuel policy is in place to use Biodiesel and Ethanol all the stakeholders, namely the farmers, the Entrepreneurs and the government are able to make money the project will succeed, a good policy can ensure the success and make it sustainable.

    Biodiesel and Ethanol project address the Climate Change Issues, as well as the Millennium Development Goals at economical and affordable costs.

    What we have seen at Copenhagen is that they are trying to promote solar power and solar lamps which cost four times more than biomass power, whereas the money being spent should be used efficiently and to benefit the maximum number of people that is not happening. There is a popular carton in Tanzania, a farmer is plowing his land using a small hand hoe, a foreigner come with his tractor and offers to plow the farmers land, the farmers puts out his hand asking for money for his food, not to plow his land or light his home.

    We suggest that instead of grants, if soft loans are given to developing countries renewable energy projects like Biodiesel and Ethanol mainly to support the farmers to undertake up planting oil seed tree bearing trees the industry will come forward to set up Biodiesel units.

    By this single initiative the developed countries can reduce the pollution from the transport sector which accounts for 25% of pollutions and the developing countries will grow trees in unused and under utilized lands thereby creating forest cover, provide modern energy to the rural community at affordable cost and improve their income level and bring them prosperity.

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