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The End of Hope?

With no binding commitment on the part of the developed countries, Copenhagen was a dead deal.

Outside of a handful of developed countries, the universal assessment of the recently concluded climate change negotiations at Copenhagen has ranged from failure to disaster. Most of those who had followed the negotiation process leading to Copenhagen had already warned, as early as October 2009, that no great advances could be expected at the fortnight long Conference of Parties (CoP) at the Danish capital and “sealing the deal” would be near impossible. Yet, there was hope that the broad parameters of a future deal would be agreed to at Copenhagen based on the principles of equity and justice. In the end, what emerged as the “Copenhagen Accord” has been a divisive, unfair document which was pushed through on the insistence of a few powerful countries and the hosts, but which does not have the stamp of approval to render it an official document of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Concerted attempts by the developed countries, which have been the main polluters of the environment over the past century and more, to dump the Kyoto Protocol (KP) which set binding targets on them to reduce their carbon emissions had been commented on in these columns earlier. While the KP remained very modest in its emission reduction targets and depended too heavily on market mechanisms to reach its goals, it made a clear and fair distinction between the principal polluters – the developed countries – who were listed under Annex 1 of the protocol and those who were not the polluters but suffered nonetheless. Further, it provided mechanisms by which the Annex 1 countries would give the developing and underdeveloped countries know-how and funds to overcome the consequences of climate change and adopt green technologies. Both these promises remained unfulfilled by the principal polluters. The United States, which has contributed more than a quarter of all global carbon emissions, refused to join the KP and remains among the highest polluters of the planet.

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