Disappointment in Copenhagen but prospects in the future

The Copen­hagen con­fer­ence depict­ed a dilem­ma faced by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty regard­ing nec­es­sary actions in the face of cli­mate change. The Copen­hagen Accord offered some results, but most Ice­landers agree that the text fell short of what is need­ed. It is clear that there does not exist a con­sen­sus on what each state should do in this area and when. At the end of the con­fer­ence, it was revealed, accord­ing to the nego­ti­a­tion offered by the states, that the atmos­pher­ic tem­per­a­ture would rise three degrees Cel­sius on aver­age. Before the con­fer­ence, the con­sen­sus was that the tem­per­a­ture should nev­er rise more than two degrees Cel­sius on aver­age.11Árni Finn­son: Loft­slagsráðstef­na Samein­uðu þjóðan­na í Kaup­man­nahöfn – deilt um áran­gur, Tímar­it Máls og Men­ningar, 2010 71(1), pages 36–49. For a small coun­try like Ice­land, sit­ting on the side­lines when pol­i­cy and agree­ments are being made is not unusu­al. Some felt that the EU was on the side­lines as well and were dis­ap­point­ed. Nego­ti­a­tions in the run-up to the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence were char­ac­terised with scep­ti­cism from devel­op­ing coun­tries towards indus­tri­al coun­tries. The hosts, the Danes, who steered the meet­ings, were nev­er able to earn the trust from third world coun­tries. This hap­pened despite the fact that the EU and key states with­in the Union tried every­thing in their pow­er to reach an agree­ment with the African states and oth­er groups of third world coun­tries in order for mat­ters to be solved.22Ibid.

The Copen­hagen con­fer­ence was an inter­est­ing diplo­mat­ic game and at best chaot­ic. Admit­ting fail­ure, how­ev­er, can be too expen­sive. The dia­logue is there and it needs to con­tin­ue, since the issue is too large to ignore. Any result can also be viewed as a pos­i­tive result. A let­ter of intent was made after the con­fer­ence although it is indeed a weak one.33Ibid. Effort was made by the Unit­ed States, but the fact remains that they can­not be per­ceived as reli­able in the mat­ter, when they still have to prove that they can pass leg­is­la­tion on this issue on the home front. It should be not­ed, how­ev­er, that Pres­i­dent Obama’s efforts show that the USA is under new lead­er­ship.44Tele­phone Inter­view with a gov­ern­ment offi­cial at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs and a mem­ber of the Ice­landic nego­ti­at­ing team, 20 May 2010.

The EU has set forth very ambi­tious goals which Ice­land should fol­low. The EU should def­i­nite­ly not decrease their goals despite dif­fi­cul­ties it might encounter but sharp­en the main goals and actions. The EU’s lead­er­ship in these mat­ters has, how­ev­er, tak­en a dent. After hav­ing saved the Kyoto agree­ment from falling through, the EU had orig­i­nal­ly tak­en its role as a leader in cli­mate change issues seri­ous­ly, but, at the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence, the Unit­ed States and the oth­er large indus­tri­al nations took the ini­tia­tive, although that did not result in a bind­ing agree­ment. To the gen­er­al pub­lic in Ice­land, the con­fer­ence failed to pro­duce any remark­able results, and news reports from the con­fer­ence car­ried head­lines of dis­ap­point­ment loud and clear.55News­pa­per head­lines in Morgun­blaðið, 18 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.mbl.is/mm/frettir/innlent/2009/12/18/samkomulagid_vonbrigdi/ (last access: 16 June 2010); Frét­tablaðið, 21 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://epaper.visir.is/media/200912210000/pdf_online/1_16.pdf (last access: 16 June 2010). Inter­est­ing­ly, the lead­ing cur­rent affairs tele­vi­sion pro­gramme decid­ed to tack­le the issue of cli­mate change with scep­ti­cism, offer­ing a debate of oppos­ing camps at the same time as the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence was under­way in Decem­ber. To local lead­ing aca­d­e­mics in the field, this was high­ly dis­ap­point­ing.66Inter­view with a project man­ag­er at the Insti­tute for Sus­tain­able Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ice­land, 20 May 2010. The Min­is­ter for the Envi­ron­ment admit­ted the results were dis­ap­point­ing but point­ed out that they could nonethe­less be used as a guid­ing light and road map for the work ahead.77Inter­view in Visir, 19 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.visir.is/of-miklar-vaentingar-gerdar-til-radstefnunnar/article/2009503704947 (last access: 16 June 2010). Envi­ron­men­tal groups were dis­ap­point­ed, but point­ed out that, for such a com­pli­cat­ed mat­ter, it is under­stand­able that the process is long and tire­some. The issue is too large to give up on though, and the Unit­ed Nations needs to remain focused on cli­mate change. The Copen­hagen con­fer­ence can be seen as high­ly suc­cess­ful in terms of pro­vok­ing debate and rais­ing aware­ness of the issue.88Árni Finns­son: Loft­slagsráðstef­na Samein­uðu þjóðan­na í Kaup­man­nahöfn – deilt um áran­gur, Tímar­it Máls og Men­ningar, 2010, 71(1), p. 36–49.

Cli­mate change is a glob­al threat and should there­fore be addressed glob­al­ly. The only body that can address such a glob­al issue is the Unit­ed Nations, but the grow­ing feel­ing of dis­il­lu­sion is under­stand­able when no bind­ing agree­ment has been accept­ed. The EU will most like­ly try to merge the Kyoto Pro­to­col with the Copen­hagen Accord now in an effort to keep the dia­logue going. Iceland’s posi­tion is in many ways clear­er after the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence. Ice­land has sup­port­ed EU’s pri­or efforts and the future holds more col­lab­o­ra­tion, whether Ice­land joins the EU or not. Ice­land wants to see a legal­ly bind­ing agree­ment. Iceland’s pos­si­ble mem­ber­ship in the EU does pro­vide relief in the emis­sions of large indus­try that would then fall under the EU’s reg­u­la­tions, mak­ing the issue eas­i­er to deal with local­ly. On the issue of financ­ing mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion efforts, this could pose a sen­si­tive prob­lem to Ice­land not hav­ing set aside finances to this end. At the same time the local reces­sion would make such finan­cial oblig­a­tions bur­den­some for Ice­land. Many devel­oped coun­tries speak very plain­ly about this – no mon­ey will go to devel­op­ing coun­tries unless they com­ply. This issue will be addressed in Mex­i­co and reach­ing a bind­ing agree­ment on this is not like­ly to occur at this point.99Tele­phone Inter­view with a gov­ern­ment offi­cial at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs and a mem­ber of the Ice­landic nego­ti­at­ing team, 20 May 2010.

    Footnotes

  • 1Árni Finn­son: Loft­slagsráðstef­na Samein­uðu þjóðan­na í Kaup­man­nahöfn – deilt um áran­gur, Tímar­it Máls og Men­ningar, 2010 71(1), pages 36–49.
  • 2Ibid.
  • 3Ibid.
  • 4Tele­phone Inter­view with a gov­ern­ment offi­cial at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs and a mem­ber of the Ice­landic nego­ti­at­ing team, 20 May 2010.
  • 5News­pa­per head­lines in Morgun­blaðið, 18 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.mbl.is/mm/frettir/innlent/2009/12/18/samkomulagid_vonbrigdi/ (last access: 16 June 2010); Frét­tablaðið, 21 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://epaper.visir.is/media/200912210000/pdf_online/1_16.pdf (last access: 16 June 2010).
  • 6Inter­view with a project man­ag­er at the Insti­tute for Sus­tain­able Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ice­land, 20 May 2010.
  • 7Inter­view in Visir, 19 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.visir.is/of-miklar-vaentingar-gerdar-til-radstefnunnar/article/2009503704947 (last access: 16 June 2010).
  • 8Árni Finns­son: Loft­slagsráðstef­na Samein­uðu þjóðan­na í Kaup­man­nahöfn – deilt um áran­gur, Tímar­it Máls og Men­ningar, 2010, 71(1), p. 36–49.
  • 9Tele­phone Inter­view with a gov­ern­ment offi­cial at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs and a mem­ber of the Ice­landic nego­ti­at­ing team, 20 May 2010.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.