Today is the Copenhagen Accord’s January 31 deadline for countries to submit their non-binding pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s being called both the beginning of “Copenhagen Greenwash” and the Accord’s “obituary.” In spite of a call to action last week in Davos, Switzerland by the President of Mexico, major emitting nations have recycled old climate commitments, rather than improving upon emission reduction commitments they had already made prior to last month’s summit.
Greenpeace International issued a statement this morning saying that the absence of strengthened commitments has failed to meet the Accord’s objective of taking action to limit global warming to under two degrees C, a critical threshold for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The previous commitments would result in an average global temperature increase of more than three degrees C, which experts think will set the world on a path towards catastrophic climate change.
To stay below the two degrees threshold, industrialized countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions by forty percent below 1990 levels by 2020. And developing countries need to reduce their projected growth in emissions by fifteen to thirty percent.
A draft European Union letter reported in the media on Friday says that the EU will repeat its minimum offer of a twenty percent cut in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 and a thirty percent cut if other countries act comparably. That isn’t likely. In recent days, both Canada and the U.S. notified the United Nations that they will cut their carbon emissions by seventeen per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. In spite of that low target, in his State of the Union Address last week, President Barack Obama affirmed his 2008 year commitment to pursuing clean energy innovation and industrial development, and climate action. Canada’s target represents a significant weakening of an already weak position. “But, says Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada, “there is no point in debating the target because the Prime Minister has no intention of meeting it.” In a statement issued to the media today, Graham says, “Mr. Harper has come up with one excuse after another to do nothing to fight climate change. Now they have announced a declaration of dependence on the United States and they are openly admitting that they are going to do as little as possible until other countries force them to take action.”
Bernhard Obermayr, who is head of the Climate and Energy Campaign for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, says, “The Accord’s 31 January deadline was no more than a cynical PR exercise allowing governments to recycle existing pledges and dress them up as effective action. It is the start of the Copenhagen ‘greenwash.’ The Accord is no substitute for the fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty demanded by millions of people who are concerned about climate change or are being affected by its impacts…Today is the day for an obituary about the Copenhagen Accord’s objective of protecting the climate.”
Greenpeace states that it remains insistent that a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal can be concluded later this year, in Mexico. But, says the statement, “We are dismayed that the UN’s top climate official and the Danish environment minister, acting as president of the UN process, are downplaying the chances. This risks being a self-fulfilling prophecy. We urge the UN to redouble its efforts to conclude the treaty the world so desperately needs.”