Playing Climate Poker

Philippine Online Chronicles
Published 04 January 2010

At the United Nations (UN) climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark attended by 190 heads of state, debates went hot while demands for a strong and binding climate pact were left out in the cold.

Crafted out of the grueling 12-day summit on climate change dubbed as COP 15 (Fifteenth Conference of Parties) was the three-page Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding agreement which commits industrialized countries to implement quantified emissions targets by 2020.

The pact acknowledges the need to limit global temperature rise to a minimum of two degrees Celsius. It also commits industrialized countries to raise $10-billion (P470-billion) a year from 2010 to 2012 as assistance to least developed countries in coping with global warming.

The Copenhagen Accord, however, was not adopted in the conference. Environmental advocate reported that the informal pact was only publicized during the late-night press conference of United States President Barack Obama, a few hours before delegates started to fly back home. reported that the United States brokered the deal in a meeting that was attended by Ethiopia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

Understandably, the deal drew criticisms from leaders of poor countries for its non-transparent and undemocratic approval. Sudan, Tuvalu, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba registered their opposition to the deal on the final day of the talks following the disclosure of the accord in Obama’s press conference.

Such was the political tension at Copenhagen, with schism between rich and poor countries seen to grow deeper as the approval of the deal is pressed upon participating countries. TIME wrote that the struggle in Copenhagen demonstrates the “onset of a kind of climate realpolitik,” and that the next round of talks in Mexico next year “is going to get harder.”

Outside the conference center, the world closely watched the climate talks as the future of global action on climate change stood on shaky ground.

Climate’s future, poor countries at stake

The Copenhagen conference, which was held last Dec. 7-18, 2009 was tasked with framing a new climate deal that will take effect after Kyoto Protocol’s expiration at the end of 2012. The largest gathering of world leaders in United Nations’ (UN) history was expected to forge a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, “including a long-term global goal for emissions reductions,” Agence France-Presse reported.

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