Firstly scientists are pretty unanimous in their agreement that the failure of world leaders to agree targets to cut climate pollution at the Copenhagen summit will lead to a global catastrophe and threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people. There is now little hope of keeping the average rise in global temperatures below 2°C (which is already too high). Scientists are predicting instead that temperatures will increase by 3°C or more, bringing widespread flooding, major droughts and mass migrations, along with serious food and water shortages.
James Curran, the director of science at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and one of the Scottish government’s top advisors on climate change comments: “It really couldn’t be any more serious. It’s staggeringly frightening and deeply disappointing that Copenhagen has failed. This is extremely dangerous for Scotland and the world.” A temperature rise of 3°C could trigger runaway climate change that will be impossible to reverse."
Martin Whiteside, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Stroud issued a statement here saying: "After the disappointing outcome at Copenhagen, Stroud Greens are even more determined to continue the fight for climate justice. We have to move forward so that 2010 will be the year of the global climate pact, with clear and binding reduction targets and fresh money to finance those targets. We must make good use of the incredible energy and passion displayed by civil society organisations in Copenhagen".
Indeed anyone interested in hearing what happened in Copenhagen from people who were there should come along to an extra Coffee House Discussions sponsored by the Stroud District Green Party at the Hibernia (the old Centre for Science and Art opposite the Library in Lansdown, Stroud) on Tuesday 5th January at 7.30pm. It will be a chance to discuss the outcome at Copenhagen, what it means internationally and how we can respond to it locally.
Who to blame?
Blame for the failures of the conference has been flying around all over - it is clear that the EU did not act together as a strong and united bloc and wasted time on internal bickering when a firm commitment to a 30% reduction in emissions by 2020 could have provided the momentum the conference so badly lacked. However Mark Lynas writes an interesting piece that starts: "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room". See his article here.
Stroud Voice from Copenhagen
Stroudie Issy Cockcroft writes in her blog of the Copenhagen meeting: "Amid the depression and chaos of the last few weeks I’ve seen, and been able to be a part of so many beautiful, inspiring things. I’ve walking with 100,000 people of every age and nationality to call for a safe and stable climate...." Read more here and she writes: "I will be honest. This took me a long time to write. I almost didn’t want to tell anyone how disastrous the outcomes of these talks have been. There are 3 main components for a strong global deal; it must be fair, ambitious and legally binding. Copenhagen has delivered none of these things. The Copenhagen Accord is a joke. But somehow I couldn’t laugh, only cry." Issy will be at the Coffee House discussion (see above).
SchNEWS has a write up of the conference here - suggesting that "no real deal suits the dominant powers very well - they can afford to hang on until the poorer nations buckle. It's full-scale carbon trading and business as usual or nothing for the richest nations. Despite half-hearted last ditch attempts to salvage something to save media face, the volutary 'accord' arm-twisted through at the last moment is virtually meaningless."
Activists report on the conference - see loads of stuff at: http://icop15.org
Copenhagen has jeopardised plans to build the new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain. Leading energy industry figures have said that the meeting’s failure to help to establish a strong international price for carbon dioxide emissions had undermined the economic rationale for developing the new plants, which emit little carbon but are very expensive to build. See the Times here.
But the story of Copenhagen is not just a story of failure
There were 112 countries that have now stood up in support of 350ppm and a safe and stable climate. They represent the poorest and most vulnerable nations. Indeed rather than die quietly like the rich nations would have they have stood firm.
We must also take credit that three years ago, eight new coal power stations were being planned, and the third runway at Heathrow was all but inevitable. Now all the new coal power stations have been cancelled, and the third runway is dead in the water. Protests are working but there need to be parallel movements to this in every country on earth and a much bigger one in Britain.
At least there is an agreement to go to Mexico, but I have to ask whether internationally negotiated climate agreements are obsolete? The tiny cuts discussed don't remotely approach the cuts that are needed and it takes years to negotiate and ratify these agreements. We will run out of time. Of course we must participate in the negotiations but we need a new way.
Environmentalist Paul Hawken this year said something along the lines of the need first to decide what needs to be done, then to do it and then ask if it is possible. We will certainly need to mobilise again all that wonderful positive energy from so many that put so much hope in Copenhagen. Let us hope that the disaster of Copenhagen can spur us all onto make the changes that are needed - here's to 2010.
"The climate summit in Copenhagen has finished without a treaty to protect the climate. It's not fair, not ambitious and not legally binding. It's not done yet. Neither are we." Greenpeace