As the climate conference in Copenhagen hobbled towards a close Friday night, the United States, in a strong-arm move, slammed through the “Copenhagen Accord" – a weak, loose, and potentially backstepping agreement negotiated by a small subset of nations involved in negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The process for striking this accord was so undemocratic and peripheral to the official UN process that in the end, the parties to the UNFCCC didn’t even know what to do with it, and finally decided to “take note” of the accord. The implications of “taking note” will be discussed and hashed out by lawyers for days, if not months, to come.
OBAMA'S GAME OF BRINKSMANSHIP
The way this agreement came into being is a study in political brinksmanship. Around 9 p.m. Friday, President Obama announced to an exclusive group of reporters that an agreement had been reached. After the story that the U.S., China, India, Brazil, and South Africa had struck a deal circulated in a number of online news stories, the United States called a press conference and President Obama announced publicly that a deal had been reached, and that “most of the text has been completely worked out.” He then left to go back to Washington in advance of the imminent snow storm that hit on Saturday. It turned out that President Obama had called it a done deal before any agreement was actually reached. All these announcements seem to have happened before some countries had even had a chance to see the text under discussion.
When the text was finally presented, a number of countries spoke out strongly against it – and particularly against the manner in which it was determined by a few countries behind closed doors and then thrust upon the 192 countries participating in the official plenary session. Into the morning on Saturday, the plenary adjourned and reconvened, attempting to determine what had happened and what the implications were.
Now that the conference is offically over, those implications are still not entirely clear. It looks like a number of countries will flat out refuse to sign the Accord. The UN operates by consensus -- and there's certainly no consensus that this weak accord is the best way forward.
WHAT'S IN THE COPENHAGEN ACCORD?
While the Accord endorses the two existing tracks of negotiations that are the focus of the UN process, it appears to set its own course when it comes to how countries would actually move forward on the key issues on which those tracks are supposed to yield agreement, including pledges for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and pledges to provide financial support to developing countries so they have the capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change.
All in all, the Accord looks like a deal that requires nothing.
More details on exactly how hollow it is in the extended version.