The Copenhagen Accord Is Significant Progress, But We’re Not Done Yet

Our guest blogger is Andrew Light, a specialist in international climate policy and a Senior Fellow with Center for American Progress.


Shortly before leaving Copenhagen yesterday, President Obama announced that he had succeeded in finalizing the text of an interim political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, with the cooperation of a surprising array of parties from the developing world, including leaders from Brazil, South Africa, India, and China. This is a first step toward finishing a new internationally ratifiable agreement on climate change.

United Nations Executive Secretary Ban Ki-moon and other parties have committed themselves to taking the next step and turning this document into a binding legal agreement by the next UN climate summit in Mexico City in 2010.

The Danish government outlined the proposal for a two-step process last month; today’s developments mark significant success toward achieving this goal, though further work needs to be done. Accepting this two-step process effectively allowed the United States to put interim targets on the table for emissions reductions for the first time, put money on the table for quick start financing for two years, and more importantly reassert America’s leadership on this issue. As the conference closed today, many parties pledged their commitment to the Copenhagen Accord and promised further emissions reductions. More will follow next year. This proposal will be taken up for full endorsement when initial negotiations start for the Mexico City meeting in 2010. I commend the US negotiators and Secretary Clinton for a job well done under extremely difficult circumstances.

Despite the work that now needs to be done, this interim agreement takes a bold move towards fundamentally changing how the world looks at ending carbon pollution. The United States’ union with the four aforementioned countries is premised on a new guiding assumption for climate negotiations: that the world is divided between the major emitters of carbon pollution and everyone else; not simply developed and developing countries. Though there will be differences among the expectations of emissions reductions among this group, all will be expected to carry their fair share of this challenge in the Copenhagen Accord — putting to rest fears in the United States that decreasing carbon pollution would be at the expense of economic competitiveness.

President Obama was clear that the science of global warming will guide the ambitions of the Copenhagen Accord as it moves toward its next step. This is good news. For the first time, an international agreement on climate change includes provisions to consider holding temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, lower than the present standard of 2 degrees Celsius.

Now the US Congress must meet this challenge and finish the job it began last summer of achieving energy independence, creating millions of clean energy jobs, and carving out the basis for international leadership on climate change.


Andrew Light has further analysis and what the United States and the world needs to do next at Climate Progress.

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