News & Views item - February 2010



Copenhagen -- Two Views. (February 19, 2010)

In Adelaide yesterday Senator Penny Wong,  federal Minister for Climate Change and Water, welcomed delegates to the first national forum on coasts and climate change.


Referring to the UN Climate Change Conference 2009, COP15, held in Copenhagen from 7 December to 18 December 2009 she delivered an upbeat if cautious assessment to delegates:

It's true that Copenhagen did not deliver the perfect outcome but it is equally true that there is plenty to build on.

The reality is that the Copenhagen Accord is an important and welcome step toward an effective global agreement on climate change.

It saw, for the first time, leaders agree to hold any increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.

For the first time, leaders of developed as well as developing countries agreed to take action, side by side, to deliver that objective.

For the first time, leaders agreed to a framework for a transparent system to track our progress, which is key to getting the environmental outcome the world needs.

And for the first time, leaders agreed on the finance necessary to support emissions reductions and adaptation in developing countries.

The world now has major emitters prepared to take action and to be accountable for it. The significance of this should not be overlooked or forgotten.

It's an important point - we haven't had this before. The Kyoto Protocol did not deliver this, as it only involved emissions obligations for developed countries.

The Accord is strongly supported by both developed and developing countries.

The Accord includes pledges to cut and limit emissions from countries representing around 80 per cent of global emissions and more than 85% of the global economy.

And while we would have liked to have gone further, perhaps the most disappointing outcome of Copenhagen is the way that some politicians including those who want to lead this nation have smugly exaggerated the shortcomings as a justification of their position to do nothing on climate change.

Concurrently Yvo de Boer, secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), announced that on July 1, 2010 he will leave his post to join the consultancy group KPMG as its Global Adviser on Climate and Sustainability.

Speaking to the media he said: "Copenhagen wasn't what I had hoped it would be," but he went on to say the summit nonetheless prompted governments to submit plans and targets for reining in the emissions primarily blamed for global warming. "I think that's a pretty solid foundation for the global response that many are looking for."


Mr de Boer in the UNFCC statement on his resignation, stresses that businesses will be key to any climate change solution. He said: "I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business. This calls for new partnerships with the business sector and I now have the chance to help make this happen."


David King, former chief scientific adviser for the United Kingdom and director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, told ScienceInsider that Yvo de Boer's resignation may create a "very real opportunity" for a "fresh face at the helm" of climate policy negotiations. The U.N. needs to find someone who "commands the respect of the international community and has a clarity of vision," Professor King said. "We need to see that the trust is regained."