• About Good and Bad of Copenhagen

  • Por Lothar Bisky | 20 Apr 10
  • In recent months climate policy was on the top of the agenda of international politics. Many international meetings took place in the run-up to the climate summit in Copenhagen. However, despite some extravagant statements by the big international players they were not really willing to tackle the climate challenge. Consequently, the Copenhagen Summit failed. Instead of a binding international agreement to combat climate change the conference did not even agree on the final declaration – which was completely unambitious – but only made note of it.

    The Copenhagen Accord does not contain any number for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Voluntary emissions targets that were conveyed to the UN as a follow-up to Copenhagen would most probably lead to an increase of average global temperature of 3.5 degrees Celsius. This would have disastrous effects for many regions in the world. The social and economic consequences can hardly be underestimated.

    Meanwhile, the newly elected commissioner for climate policy Connie Hedegaard already announced that the EU will not push for a decision on a binding agreement at the next UN climate conference in Cancun/Mexico at the end of this year. Although this reflects a quite realistic analysis of the current state of negotiations it is exactly the wrong signal for the EU to send, especially if it still sees itself as playing a leadership role in these negotiations. On the other hand, one could say, this is completely in line with the reluctance of the EU to push negotiations by committing itself to a 30 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for the year 2020. However, the EU is now only proposing a 20 percent reduction which is far from being consistent with the 2 degree goal the EU agreed upon.

    Most EU governments have not learned their lessons from Copenhagen. For example, in Copenhagen Germany’s Angela Merkel promised 420 million Euro as “climate finance” for developing countries. Recent budget decisions (March 19) only contained 70 million Euro of new and additional money. This is what remains of the former “climate chancellor”.

    Nevertheless, Copenhagen had its positive sides. We have seen some developing countries like Bolivia, Venezuela, but also small island states like Tuvalu, acting more self-confidently in the negotiations than ever before. And beyond the convention centre we saw the initial steps of a new movement for climate justice. There were 100,000 people demonstrating before the final negotiation week started and tens of thousands at the alternative summit during the two conference weeks. This creates new opportunities to build alliances between left parties/left governments and social movements. Against this background – the failure of the official negotiations and the growing resistance – Evo Morales issued an invitation to an alternative climate summit in Cochabamba at the end of April. It is expected that about ten thousand people from social movements, left parties and environmental organisations will convene in Cochabamba to explore alternatives to current climate policies to overcome the current deadlock in negotiations.

    Another positive outcome of Copenhagen: There is a growing understanding that we can’t wait for an international agreement before we start tackling climate change. Instead of too much focussing on the international negotiations we have to focus on the required structural change in the energy sector, in the transport sector and production patterns as a whole. What does this mean? It means: promote renewable energy and energy efficiency; no new coal-driven power plants in industrialised countries that would perpetuate the fossil-fuel mode of producing electricity; expansion of public transportation at reasonably low prices to offer alternatives to individual automobile transportation.

    Public transportation is a good example showing that social and ecological change are two sides of the same coin. This is why the environmental challenge is fundamental for left parties. As the impact of climate change is going to hit the poorest people first and hardest, globally and within countries, the prevention of climate change is a social justice issue. Aiming at global social justice therefore requires tackling climate change. On the other hand, climate protection measures will only be accepted if they are conceived in a just and fair way.

    It is our responsibility to succeed in our efforts for climate protection: It is our responsibility for our children and grandchildren. Because it is true and remains true that we have only borrowed the earth from our children.


    Excerpt from the address by Lothar Bisky at the “Climate Party Initiative”-Meeting, March 26 to 28, 2010, Lisbon