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New Copenhagen accord ‘a sham’

The new Copenhagen accord, hammered out late on Friday night, is a sham — leading climate change observers said. South Africa took centre stage in the accord as one of five countries to broker it, together with the US.

The European Union has also accepted the accord.

But the accord split nations in the last plenary, which was still going strong on Saturday morning. Many nations was hesitant to sign the deal, and there was a lot of bitterness from Venezuela, many African delegations and the small island states lead by the sad voice of Tuvula.

The accord was negotiated between South Africa, the US China, India, Brazil and the US in a day of high drama that saw the Obama illusion shatter into a million pieces.

The onus to get a legally binding agreement has now shifted to Mexico City in a year’s time.

Scepticism in action
Charismatic Sudanese lead negotiator and chief negotiator for the G77 group Lumumba Di-Aping, called the deal a sell-out.

”This deal will definitely result in massive devastation in Africa and small island states,” he said. ”It has the lowest level of ambition you can imagine. It’s nothing short of climate change Scepticism in action. It locks countries into a cycle of poverty for ever. Obama has eliminated any difference between him and Bush.”

It is understood that some of the African delegates were unhappy that South Africa was involved in the brokering of the accord, as it presented a break from the unified African position.

The South African delegation was not available for comment. President Jacob Zuma was reportedly involved in high-level talks with President Barack Obama among others, in drafting parts of the Copenhagen accord.

Greenpeace was scathing about the turn of events.

‘Not fair’

”Not fair, not ambitious and not legally binding,” Greenpeace International executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said of the accord.

”The job of world leaders is not done. The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame,” he said.

Naidoo said world leaders produced a poor deal full of loopholes big enough to fly Air Force One through. ”We have seen a year of crises, but today it is clear that the biggest one ”facing humanity is a leadership crisis.”

In the final document the accord shies away from committing nations to a 1.5C temperature rise, as argued for by small island states and contained in earlier drafts. Instead the accord commits to 2C. The earlier 2050 goal of reducing global CO2 emissions by 80% was also omitted from the final draft.

About $30-billion in funding for poor countries to adapt to climate change will start flowing next year, the accord promised and $100-billion a year after 2020.

Full adoption?
It was unclear whether the 192 countries in the full, final plenary session would adopt the accord.

Oxfam International said the so-called ‘climate deal’ ”is a triumph of spin over substance”. It said the deal provides no confidence that catastrophic climate change will be averted or that poor countries will be given the money they need to adapt as temperatures rise.

”This agreement barely papers over the huge differences between countries which have plagued these talks for two years,” said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

Shorbanu Khatun, a climate migrant at the summit with Oxfam said: ”I came all the way from a displaced persons camp on the flooded coast of Bangladesh to see justice done for the 45 000 people made homeless by cyclone Aila. How do I tell them their misery has fallen on deaf ears?”

Other observer organisations such politicians was not trying to spin a ‘nothing agreement” into something that looked acceptable to the world and wrongly convinced them that progress had been made at Copenhagen.

Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth, who had earlier the week been thrown out of the conference said the accord was a toothless declaration.

”This is the United Nations and the nations here are not united on this secret backroom declaration. The US has lied to the world when they called it a deal and they lied to over a hundred countries when they said would listen to their needs.

She said the accord ‘being spun by the US as an historic success, reflects contempt for the multilateral process and we expect more from our Nobel prize winning President.”

Much had been expected of Obama to save the talks from its impasse, but apart from brokering what critics called a ‘weak deal”, Obama did not bring much to the table at Copenhagen that differed from the US’s previous position.

He also chose not to speak to the world’s press corps, but only briefed Whitehouse journalists on his way back to the US, late last night on Air Force One. He blamed the expected bad weather conditions in Washington as an excuse for leaving early.

China blamed
It was reported that he told the US journalists that an ‘unprecedented progress” had bee made, but he also said” ”we have much further to go.” Though he didn’t say it outright, veiled remarks indicated that Obama blamed China for the weak outcome.

He said if delegates had waited to reach a full, binding agreement, ”we wouldn’t have made any progress.”

‘There might be such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward, we ended up taking two steps back,” he told US reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she begrudgingly accepted the accord, calling it a ‘first step”. But the small island state of Tuvulua complained bitterly that his country’s future was not for sale. President Hugo Chavez from Venezuela also led a trio of Latin American countries that included Cuba and Bolivia who complained that they were excluded from the process and that they believed president Lula da Silva from Brazil didn’t represent their interests.

Yim Gore, Oxfam International’s EU Climate Change Policy Advisor, said European leaders had been squeezed out of the deal struck tonight.

EU credited
‘The EU deserves credit for being first to announce their target, but they failed to move to 30% when the situation demanded it,” he said. ‘With moral courage they could have shown historic leadership in these talks.”

‘The biggest challenge, turning the political will into a legally ?binding agreement has moved to Mexico,” WWF said in a statement. ‘After years of negotiations we now have a declaration of will which does not bind anyone and therefore fails to guarantee a safer future for next generations.”

The organisation said what was good about Copenhagen was the level of national pledges for climate action in most countries.

‘Politically, we live in a world that agrees to stay below the danger zone of two degrees but practically what we have on the table adds up to 3C or more.” It said a gap between the rhetoric and reality could cost millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities.

‘We are disappointed but remain hopeful. The civil society will continue watching every step of further negotiations. Getting a strong outcome of the follow-up process will take a lot of bridge-building between the rich and the poor countries. We expect that the Mexican hosts will be ideally placed to play that role.”

View our special report on Copenhagen with blogs, videos and more here.

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Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald is a South African environmental reporter, particularly experienced in the investigative field. After 10 years at the Mail & Guardian, she signed on with City Press in 2011. Her investigative environmental features have been recognised with numerous national journalism awards. Her coverage revolves around climate change politics, land reform, polluting mines, and environmental health. The world’s journey to find a deal to address climate change has shaped her career to a great degree. Yolandi attended her first climate change conference in Montreal in 2005. In the last decade, she has been present at seven of the COP’s, including the all-important COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. South Africa’s own addiction to coal in the midst of these talks has featured prominently in her reports.

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