the Copenhagen accord

The Financial Times today published a thorough if depressing description of the final hours of the Copenhagen conference.

It was an extraordinary sight: the leaders of more than 20 countries, including US president Barack Obama and the heads of most of the world’s other biggest economies, herded with an adviser or two each into a small room on Friday morning, poring over a short piece of prose with red pens. ….

What emerged late on Friday night, after hours of hard bargaining, including a showdown between Mr Obama and the leaders of China and the other big developing economies, was a document to be known as the Copenhagen accord . ….

By Saturday morning Su Wei, China’s chief negotiator, was distancing his country from the deal. “This is not an agreed accord, it is not an agreed document, it is not formally endorsed or adopted,” he said. “It is prepared or discussed by a group of people who have been specially invited.” His point was that the accord was not a formal UN decision but a voluntary agreement. He went on to suggest countries that sign up might have reservations, and might resign from it at any point. ….

[The accord] can easily be sidelined, an impression reinforced by China’s words. That leaves the UN with a further six months of tough and possibly hopeless negotiations to win acceptance, to be followed by the nearly impossible task of turning any such acceptance into a treaty. It also leaves the world without a global framework to tackle climate change.

It is these conclusions, after two weeks of unprecedented scenes, that have led some to question whether the UN, with processes vulnerable to delays, grandstanding and blackmail by special interests, is the forum in which to reach a treaty. There is talk from developed country officials of pressing ahead with a much smaller group of the leading economies, such as the Group of 20, responsible for the majority of global emissions – a “coalition of the willing” for the climate.

Fiona Harvey, Ed Crooks and Andrew Ward, “Copenhagen: A discordant accord”, Financial Times, 21 December 2009.

The initial stumbling block for consensus was not China, but four countries –Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua– “implacably opposed to the accord”.

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