January 31, 2010 is the deadline for nations supporting the Copenhagen Accord to submit their greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans. Today, just days before the deadline, the United States submitted its reduction proposal for 17% of 2005 levels by 2020. The US joins more than 25 other nations that have come forward so far, collectively representing more than 70% of what global emissions were in 2005. When the official deadline passes and the number of countries and pledges are tallied, we may finally have an indication of whether the Copenhagen Accord will lead to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement to solve the climate crisis.
The Copenhagen Accord resulted from last-minute and, at times, intense negotiations among heads of state that arrived in Copenhagen on December 18 for the final day of the 15th UN Climate Change Conference. With only minor agreements reached on some issues, very heavy lifting was still needed to reach any kind of consensus on the most difficult issues that would be required in order to reach a global agreement on climate change that would have any chance of making a difference in cooling the planet.
Despite more than 13 hours of intensive negotiations, the resulting Accord is a mere five pages. Brevity will not be a detractor if the six most critical aspects of the Accord are upheld or, one hopes, even exceeded:
Reducing Emissions Below 2 Degrees
Deadline for Submitting Emissions Commitments
Verifying Emissions Reductions
Commitment to Short and Long-Term Finance
Continued Negotiations Under the UNFCCC
Sunday’s deadline is merely the first of several critical steps that must happen in order for a meaningful global agreement to move forward in 2010. While the US’s pledged commitment is significant, dozens more nations from the 185 that attended the conference must come forward with their plans to reduce emissions, as well.
And though today’s announcement from the White House that the federal government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28 percent by 2020 is welcome news, a multi-sector, mandatory reduction approach is needed to help the United States as a whole meet even its modest reduction goals of 17% of 2005 levels by 2020. Multiple policies have been proposed and some even debated and passed in the Congress – cap & trade, cap & dividend, carbon tax – but no law has been signed and the legislative path forward remains unclear.
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