21 December 2009


The reaction from NGOs and scientists to the outcome of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen has been one of disappointment.

"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" said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the global conservation organization WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

The accord "clearly falls well short of what the public around the world was expecting (…) it’s clearly not enough to keep temperatures on a track below two degrees" Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists reportedly said.

The two degree target is linked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to keeping the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 450 ppm (parts per million). (although 350ppm is considered to be the only safe upper limit by some scientists) "Going above 450 parts per million will change everything. It’s not just one or two things. There will be changes in water, food, ecosystems, health, and those changes also interact with each other" according to Cynthia Rosenzweig a NASA climate impacts researcher.

Despite the deep disappointment of many who helped create it, the Copenhagen accord will stand as a first attempt to bring the biggest greenhouse gas polluting nations, the United States and China, into a political deal to curb soaring global emissions.

It also brought together 119 world leaders who acknowledged for the first time that climate change is one of the greatest economic and security challenges facing the planet, and almost every leader recognised that their economies would be forced to undergo a clean energy revolution within the next few decades.

By the end of next month, rich nations, including Australia, must lodge their 2020 targets to cut emissions under the accord while the big emerging polluters, including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, have agreed to list the voluntary measures to curb theirs.

While acknowledging that the accord falls well short of what is needed it has been recognized as an essential beginning.

The world has begun to move, We all share the responsibility to ensure that movement gains momentum.

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