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Brazils Lula turns Copenhagen pledge to cut CO2 emissions into law

Plus a review of the best analyses on the UN climate conference

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed a law Tuesday requiring that Brazil cut greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent by 2020, meeting a commitment made at the Copenhagen climate talks.

Brazil announced at the summit a “voluntary commitment” to reduce CO2 emissions by between 36.1 and 38.9 percent in the next 10 years.

For me, the Copenhagen “glass” is 2/3 full, since the point wasn’t just the meeting, but the remarkable commitments that countries made leading up to the meeting by the biggest emitters, the ones who hold the fate of the planet in their hands (see “What Bill McKibben doesn’t like about the Copenhagen Accord is precisely what I like about it”).

Since so much of the reporting and analysis on Copenhagen has been dreadful, I’m going to review below what I think are the best essays on it (with links). I’ll start with the key point CAP’s Andrew Light explained about those commitments:

When you add up everything that the 17 largest economies have on the table, not for a treaty mind you, but awaiting domestic action that could happen regardless of a treaty such as the US legislation, then we are 5 gigatons away from commitments that should get us on a 450ppm stabilization path by 2020, essentially 65% of the way there. Given that the world has managed to get on a potential track in that direction with the world’s largest historical emitter pretending nothing was happening in the mean time and, only trying to catch up recently, isn’t bad at all.

Here’s Jeremy Symons, Senior VP for Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation, on the Copenhagen Accord:

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….

Here’s the NY Times editorial on Copenhagen:

For the moment it is worth savoring the steps forward. China is now a player in the effort to combat climate change in a way it has never been, putting measurable emissions reductions targets on the table and accepting verification.

Here’s the bottom line from NRDC’s David Doniger, who was director of climate change policy at Bill Clinton’s EPA (see “The Copenhagen Accord: A Big Step Forward”):

Give up the sour and grudging reviews. The Copenhagen Accord is a significant breakthrough that signals a new era of effective cooperation between all major emitters, and opens the door to finally enacting U.S. climate and energy legislation next year.

Here’s the bottom line implications for the U.S., from Dan Weiss, CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy:

The newly inked Copenhagen Accord, along with other factors, increases the odds for Senate passage of clean energy jobs and global warming legislation.

For more on what this means for U.S. action, see Top staffer for Lugar (R-IN) labels Copenhagen Accord a “home run”; Murkowski (R-AK) says “China and India stepping forward “¦ is progress.”

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And finally, here’s the conclusion from the extensive, must-read analysis, “What Hath Copenhagen Wrought?” by Robert Stavins, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program:

We may look back upon Copenhagen as an important moment “” both because global leaders took the reins of the procedures and brought the negotiations to a fruitful conclusion, and because the foundation was laid for a broad-based coalition of the willing to address effectively the threat of global climate change. Only time will tell.

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