Highlights from the Proposed ‘Copenhagen Accord’ on Climate Change

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The proposed "Copenhagen Accord" announced by U.S. President Barack Obama at the international climate talks is short, barely three pages. It contains more aims than commitments, few clear targets for the future, and it is not legally binding. What its negotiators were able to agree on doesn’t go much beyond a statement about the dangers posed by climate change and the need for global action.

“We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” the text begins.

“We emphasize our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

Here’s a look at the highlights. The text would require a unanimous vote of all 193 nations in the Conference of Parties to be approved.

2 Degrees

The text acknowledges a requirement to take action to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, "consistent with science and on the basis of equity."

Early drafts called for a reassessment by 2015 to determine whether that goal should be strengthened to 1.5 degrees, a targeted demanded by island nations whose very survival is at risk. The lower number was removed from a draft version presented at the final plenary session, then restored in the final version released by the UNFCCC.

Emissions Reduction Targets

The text acknowledges that deep cuts in global warming emissions are necessary, but it provides no targets.

All references to a 2050 goal were eliminated from the final version. Initial drafts had called for cutting emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by then.

Initial versions also suggested that a 2020 goal would be added, but it did not appear. In the final text, the Annex I parties would commit to implement individual emissions reduction goals for 2020 (see charts below). The text, if approved, would require them to file their plans by February 2010, but it doesn’t recommend an overall target or minimum reduction level.

There are no emissions reduction targets for developing nations. The closest the text comes to suggesting a target is this:

“We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the timeframe for peaking will be longer in developing countries and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and that a low-emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development.”


The text includes a combined $30 billion in fast-start money from developed nations across the 2010-2012 period.

That funding — meant to support adaptation, technology transfer and development, and mitigation efforts — would be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least-developed countries, small island states and African countries.

Beyond 2012, the draft states that developed countries would set "a goal” of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020, with the money coming from a variety of public and private sources.

A Copenhagen Climate Fund would be established as the financial mechanism for funding projects, including forestry, adaptation, and capacity building. And a Technology Transfer Mechanism would be established “to accelerate technology development and transfer.”

Measure, Report, Verify

For oversight, a “High Level Panel” would be established under the Conference of Parties’ guidance, according to the proposal.

Developed nations would fall under a strict monitoring regime: “Delivery of reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines adopted by the Conference of Parties, and will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.”

Among non-Annex I countries, only those seeking international support “will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Conference of Parties.” Other actions would fall under domestic measurement reporting and verification instead.

Completion Date?

The final text, still non-binding, offers no timetable for writing a legally binding accord. Initial drafts had set a goal of no later than the next Conference of Parties meeting in 2010.