Disillusionment after the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change

The Span­ish gov­ern­ment praised the tech­ni­cal advance­ments of the work­ing groups at Copen­hagen. It was also sat­is­fied about hav­ing brought the largest pol­luters on board (albeit in the in extrem­is meet­ing). It nev­er­the­less realised that inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­men­tal agree­ments are inevitably slow and bound by the law of the least ambi­tious pro­gramme. In sum, there was an undis­guised feel­ing of fail­ure among gov­ern­ment offi­cials. This was reflect­ed in the dec­la­ra­tions made by the Span­ish Office of Cli­mate Change (OECC) at var­i­ous sem­i­nars and work­shops in the after­math of the COP15. Too much to achieve in a short peri­od of time, with mis­un­der­stand­ings and lack of trust among par­ties, could sum­marise the government’s analy­sis of Copen­hagen. The Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy of the EU was expect­ed to fur­ther the joint efforts of the Euro­pean Union in the future achieve­ment of a legal­ly bind­ing agree­ment.11More infor­ma­tion is avail­able at: http://www.mma.es/secciones/cambio_climatico/pdf/Nota_resultados_COP15.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010); http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/12/22/ciencia/1261507885.html (last access: 29 July 2010).

The main oppo­si­tion par­ty – the con­ser­v­a­tive Pop­u­lar Par­ty (PP) – believes that the agree­ment reached shows a low lev­el of ambi­tion and scant progress. They con­sid­er that there is an urgent need to reach a glob­al agree­ment in order to ensure all par­ties and firms com­pete under the same con­di­tions in a low car­bon econ­o­my, thus avoid­ing relo­ca­tion of nation­al indus­try.22Avail­able at: http://www.pp.es/actualidad-noticia/pp-pide-informacion-al-gobierno-sobre-propuesta-espanola-cumbre-copenhague-sobre-cambio-climatico_971.html (last access: 29 July 2010). Accord­ing to the left­ist par­ty Izquier­da Uni­da, the Copen­hagen inter­na­tion­al sum­mit was an absolute fail­ure.33Avail­able at: http://izquierda-unida.es/node/6811 (last access: 29 July 2010).

The Span­ish Trade Unions (Unión Gen­er­al de Tra­ba­jadores, UGT and Con­fed­eración Sindi­cal de Comi­siones Obr­eras, CCOO) have expressed their dis­ap­point­ment with the lack of a bind­ing agree­ment at the Copen­hagen sum­mit. It is con­sid­ered an absolute fail­ure as sci­en­tif­ic man­dates (to reduce green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions between 25 per­cent and 40 per­cent in rela­tion to 1990 lev­els by 2020) have not been enshrined into the Copen­hagen Accord. Cur­rent fig­ures fall short of the above rec­om­men­da­tions and amount to 15 per­cent of reduc­tions. Copen­hagen has been a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty in terms of the ‘mil­lions’ of green col­lar jobs that could have been cre­at­ed. They also crit­i­cised the ‘out­ra­geous’ exclu­sion of civ­il soci­ety in this his­tor­i­cal meet­ing. For them, there was an unprece­dent­ed breach of his­tor­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion of civ­il soci­ety in cli­mate change nego­ti­a­tions. Future agree­ments should include not only civ­il soci­ety, but also all coun­tries.44Avail­able at: http://www.ugt.es/actualidad/2009/diciembre/a21122009.html (last access: 29 July 2010).

The main Span­ish non-gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions high­light­ed the his­tor­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty missed in Con­pen­hagen. Accord­ing to Inter­mon Oxfam, the inter­na­tion­al lead­ers, sub­servient to their own (eco­nom­ic) inter­ests, for­got about the ‘com­mon good’. The Copen­hagen Accord was a use­less agree­ment that served the media-fren­zy desire of offer­ing head­lines, but failed to ensure that lives are saved. This is espe­cial­ly wor­ri­some for the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble. Copenhagen’s fail­ure and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of fac­ing the cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences of cli­mate change should be a wake-up call for pol­i­cy-mak­ers and polit­i­cal lead­ers alike.55Inter­mon Oxfam: “Un cli­ma de vergüen­za: volved a la mesa. Análi­sis ini­cial de la reunión sobre el cli­ma en Copen­h­ague”, 21/XII/2009, avail­able at: http://www.intermonoxfam.org/UnidadesInformacion/anexos/11347/091223_Un_clima_de_verguenza_IO.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).

Ecol­o­gis­tas en Accion, a rel­e­vant non-prof­it eco­log­i­cal organ­i­sa­tion, also believes that the lack of pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and the exclu­sion of the ‘glob­al South’ must be con­demned. It stressed its dis­ap­point­ment with the non-exis­tent long-term com­mit­ments to ensure bind­ing GHG reduc­tions. There is a long-stand­ing and urgent need for deci­sive glob­al cli­mate agree­ments post 2012. The lim­it­ed amount of nat­ur­al resources, as sources or as sinks, has to be includ­ed in the par­lance of inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­men­tal agree­ments in an effec­tive way if the worst con­se­quences of cli­mate change are to be avoid­ed.66Avail­able at: http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/spip.php?article16104 (last access: 29 July 2010); http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/spip.php?article16220 (last access: 29 July 2010). Green­peace in Spain declared that Copen­hagen was only a ‘weak polit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion’ that implic­it­ly leads to increas­es in tem­per­a­ture above 2ºC. The agree­ment can be seen, at best, as a step along the road to a legal­ly bind­ing agree­ment. Trans­fers agreed should be effec­tive­ly made if engage­ment of Least Devel­oped Coun­tries (LDCs) is to be ensured.77Avail­able at: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/espana/reports/100210.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).

Accord­ing to the Twen­ty-Third Wave of the Barom­e­ter of the Elcano Roy­al Insti­tute (March 2010), Span­ish pub­lic opin­ion is wor­ried about the threat of cli­mate change and rose to the lev­el of oth­er issues. A total of 90 per­cent con­sid­er it an impor­tant threat and half of these peo­ple feel it is a very impor­tant threat. With­in this con­text, it should come as no sur­prise that one out of every two Spaniards is dis­ap­point­ed by the results of the cli­mate change sum­mit in Copen­hagen. Only 1 per­cent assessed the results of the cli­mate change sum­mit as very good, 27 per­cent as good, 28 per­cent as bad, 13 per­cent as very bad, 22 per­cent gave no answer.

    Footnotes

  • 1More infor­ma­tion is avail­able at: http://www.mma.es/secciones/cambio_climatico/pdf/Nota_resultados_COP15.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010); http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/12/22/ciencia/1261507885.html (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 2Avail­able at: http://www.pp.es/actualidad-noticia/pp-pide-informacion-al-gobierno-sobre-propuesta-espanola-cumbre-copenhague-sobre-cambio-climatico_971.html (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 3Avail­able at: http://izquierda-unida.es/node/6811 (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 4Avail­able at: http://www.ugt.es/actualidad/2009/diciembre/a21122009.html (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 5Inter­mon Oxfam: “Un cli­ma de vergüen­za: volved a la mesa. Análi­sis ini­cial de la reunión sobre el cli­ma en Copen­h­ague”, 21/XII/2009, avail­able at: http://www.intermonoxfam.org/UnidadesInformacion/anexos/11347/091223_Un_clima_de_verguenza_IO.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 6Avail­able at: http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/spip.php?article16104 (last access: 29 July 2010); http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/spip.php?article16220 (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 7Avail­able at: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/espana/reports/100210.pdf (last access: 29 July 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.