NWF’s Jeremy Symons on the Copenhagen Accord

Dec. 19-I am encouraged by five things from the Accord agreed to here in Copenhagen: The China breakthrough, President Obama’s leadership, new initiatives to protect tropical forests and provide humanitarian aid, and a way forward to a better, more complete deal in 2010. The discouraging part is that the Accord is incomplete and did not convert this rare gathering of world leaders into an ambitious plan for action. Here’s more on why the dramatic rescue of the Copenhagen Accord over the last day was important:

That’s Jeremy Symons, Senior VP for Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest conservation organization, writing at Politico’s Arena.  Here’s the rest of his analysis:

Most importantly, China is now officially in the game in a way it has resisted since the Earth Summit almost two decades ago. The Copenhagen Accord is a two-part breakthrough with China: They are putting numbers on the table with a measurable pledge to join the global fight to reduce climate pollution, and they agreed to open their books on their rising emissions and allow a transparent review of their progress toward their emissions pledge. This breakthrough is important for the global climate effort, as well as encouraging the Senate to move forward and deliver the climate and clean energy bill to the president. China will act, and the China excuse is off the table.

Second, President Obama’s commitment on the environment and his leadership skills really came through. The talks had deadlocked and we had run out of time, but the President kept leaders working until a deal was done. How high were the stakes? As Politico reports: “President Barack Obama burst into a meeting of Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders to try and reach a climate agreement in late Friday negotiations in Copenhagen.” This is high drama on the international stage, and shows the importance global leaders are finally ascribing to this issue, even if the negotiating process itself got gummed up and limited the scope of what was achieved here.

Third, the Copenhagen Accord lays a foundation for a deal to provide humanitarian assistance to those in poor nations who stand in harm’s way from the drought, famine and other symptoms of the cancer that is growing in our planet’s climate systems. This financing to help poor nations build resiliency to the many threats of climate change — and adapt to those threats with as little loss of life s possible — is an essential moral breakthrough to help those who are not able to protect themselves. It also is a diplomatic breakthrough because it addresses one of the main stumbling blocks to a fair global deal on climate. It is unclear, though, how the public funding for this deal will be secured — an important item for the talks ahead.

Fourth, the Copenhagen Accord includes important, concrete steps forward to rev up global efforts — and America’s commitment — to protect tropical forests. The forest proposal received little attention in the press, but Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Obama’s negotiating team put together a $3.5 billion deal (which will be invested over three years) to help nations protect their forests from deforestation. It’s a strong and unexpected kick-start. The U.S. contribution of $1 billion in new money leveraged even more money from Norway, Australia, France, Japan and the UK. More progress was made in negotiating a forest protection framework, providing a head start on a broader forest plan next year.

Finally, we have a way forward to a more complete and more ambitious climate deal in 2010, culminating in talks in Mexico City. We can’t afford to show up again without America’s plan of action in hand. So the fight now turns to Congress and to the EPA to fill in the missing pieces of our plan, which in turn will help Obama finish and improve the incomplete deal struck at Copenhagen.

3 Responses to NWF’s Jeremy Symons on the Copenhagen Accord

  1. Craig says:

    Isn’t there a shrinking window of opportunity for climate legislation, tied to the Congressional election cycle? It seems almost certain that Democrats will lose the 60 vote majority in the Senate, and the House margin will shrink by a lot. By next summer, the election campaigns will be in full swing. Will moderate Senators and House members, on the eve of such a swing election, be up for signing off on an aggressive climate bill? I know that the EPA threat hangs over this all, but I think that there are ways for opponents to tie up proposed EPA regulations in court battles for years.

  2. JoeB says:

    JOE, LEVEL WITH US— What’s are the precise agreements in Copenhagen and how far are we off the required PPM curve?

    [JR: If you read this blog or the news, then you knew a month ago the big emitters said the goal here was a political accord. Other than a few obstructionist countries, that’s what we got. Read Light’s post and his comments.]

  3. JoeB says:

    Level with us, Joe