For whom the bell tolls

Lack of political will and exaggerated expectations could explain the failure to achieve a fair, binding and ambitious agreement at the Copenhagen Conference.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu began the concluding prayer at the ecumenical service on Sunday December the 13th, Copenhagen Cathedral bells started to ring, 350 times. Simultaneously, hundreds of Churches in Denmark joined the Cathedral bells – also ringing 350 times. 350 is a symbolic number for environment campaigners: 350 parts per million is deemed the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so as to avoid runaway climate change.

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We sink or swim together

The schedule of UN meetings before the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change shows how intense is the negotiation process: 1-12 June, UN climate negotiations in Bonn; 21-25 September, UN Climate Summit in New York; 28 September – 9 October, UN negotiations in Bangkok; 2- 6 November, final round in Barcelona; and 7 – 18 December, the Copenhagen Conference itself. We are entering a critical phase of the Copenhagen preparations at international and European level and any agreement will require energy, diplomatic skills, and generosity.

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Picking up the pieces, regaining momentum after Copenhagen

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change will resume meetings after the failure of the Copenhagen Conference. The two major issues, besides the financial instruments, are the need to conclude a legally binding agreement and to agree transparent rules to assess compliance.

Although a large majority of commentators consider the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to have been a failure, certain influential voices have stressed the value of the Conference’s agreements. Lord Stern, professor at the London School of Economics and author of a key report on the economic and social assessment of climate change, has affirmed that “this process has itself been a key part of countries stating what their intentions on emissions reductions are – countries that had not stated them before, including China and the US”.

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