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Copenhagen: half-baked text and unclear substance

WWF-New Zealand press release – for immediate

Copenhagen Accord: half-baked text and unclear substance

Copenhagen, Denmark – The UN climate talks in Copenhagen were inches away from total failure and ended with an outcome far too weak to tackle dangerous climate change, WWF said today.

“Copenhagen was at the brink of failure due to poor leadership combined with an unconvincing level of ambition”, said Kim Carstensen, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

“Millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities lie in the difference between rhetoric and reality on climate change action.”

Politicians around the world seem to be in agreement that we must stay below the 2 degree C threshold of unacceptable risks of climate change – in theory. However, practically what leaders have put on the table adds up to 3 degrees C of warming or more, according to WWF estimates.

Peter Hardstaff, WWF Climate Change campaigner, said: “Although most developed countries, including New Zealand, claim to want to keep global warming below a 2 degree rise in average global temperature, it appears they are simply not prepared to take the necessary action to achieve this.

“There is still much to do and New Zealand needs to play it part by offering more ambitious emissions cuts as a contribution to the effort developed countries must make to tackle climate change.”

Attention will now shift to follow up negotiations which need to fill out many details in the often vague accord – and, on a more positive note, to a host of initiatives by countries, cities, companies and communities that are starting to build low carbon economies from the base up.

WWF analysed the conference outcome against a 10 element scorecard, finding that none of the objectives needed to fulfil the political aim of keeping average global warming below the widely agreed 2 degree C high risk level had been met, although some had been partly fulfilled.

The draft Copenhagen Accord is a long way from developing into a legally binding framework for decisive action on climate change.

“We needed a treaty now and at best, we will be working on one in half a year’s time,” said Carstensen.

“What we have after two years of negotiation is a half-baked text of unclear substance. With the possible exceptions of US legislation and the beginnings of financial flows, none of the political obstacles to effective climate action have been solved.”

The lack of clarity is illustrated by a call for a global peak in emissions “as soon as possible”, in contrast to the 2007 call of the IPCC for emissions to peak in 2017.

Emissions reductions pledges remain far lower than what is required, with a leaked analysis by the UNFCCC secretariat showing a shortfall that would lead to 3 degrees C of warming even without considering extensive loopholes.

“We are disappointed but the story continues,” said Carstensen. “Civil society was excluded from these final negotiations to an extraordinary degree, and that was felt during the concluding days in Copenhagen.”

“We can assure the world, however, that WWF and other elements of civil society will continue engaging in every step of further negotiations.”

ENDS

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