The National Catholic Review
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President Barack Obama’s last-minute, closed-door arm-twisting managed to wrangle a deal out of the diplomatic chaos that had threatened to overrun the United Nation’s climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, but not everyone is pleased that a “better than nothing” outcome was achieved by the Dec. 18 close of the conference. The international Catholic economic development cooperative Cidse and Caritas Internationalis, the world's largest alliance of aid and development agencies, say the proposed Copenhagen Accord “is a weak and morally reprehensible deal which will spell disaster for millions of the world’s poorest people.”

“It is inconceivable that with more than 100 world leaders gathered together in one room to make a pact to solve a global problem, they have failed to commit themselves to adequate and binding obligations," said Bernd Nilles, the secretary general of Cidse. “They can call it an historical accord, a declaration, whatever they like. The reality is that leaders have failed to deliver a concrete and effective solution; they have passed up this historical opportunity to set a clear and collective pathway to a sustainable future.”

The Copenhagen Accord, which only passed by a procedural motion after two weeks of tense negotiations, was assembled by the leaders of the United States, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and major European nations after it became clear the 194-nation summit was in danger of closing without a resolution of any sort. The accord set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 that are the key to holding down temperatures. It also promised $100 billion for poor nations that will likely bear the worst climate effects from global warming, but the details of how that money will be allocated and disbursed remain murky. The United States has promised to contribute $3.6 billion dollars in climate funds for the 2010-12 period, with Japan contributing a total of $11 billion dollars, and the European Union $10.6 billion dollars. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said the agreement reached in Copenhagen was "better than nothing" and "not a bad result."

“People in developing countries are already struggling with the effects of climate change,” said Niamh Garvey of Cisde member Trócaire/Caritas Ireland. “We only have a short window of opportunity to prevent even worse to come. The deal put forward in Copenhagen fails to provide the commitments that the science says is required. Millions of people are now fighting to keep their heads above water while political leaders stall. It suggests an unambitious non-binding agreement that sees countries set their own individual targets based on what is considered economically and politically viable rather than what is required by science and justice.”

While countries expressed a willingness to continue working on global emissions standards and a coordinated response to climate change, the proposed deal itself presents no clear timeline for concluding a more aggressive and legally binding agreement in the coming months. The deal negotiated by the president must be approved by the U.S. Congress.

Cidse and Caritas believe the world must accept nothing less than a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement that commits developed countries to greenhouse gas emissions cuts of more than 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The alliance also urges wealthy nations to provide $195 billion in funding by 2020—on top of existing aid commitments—to help developing countries harness green technologies and protect themselves from the worst impacts of climate change.

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