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Obama @ COP15 Commitment

December 19, 2009
tags: ,

By Elaine Ho, University of Waterloo (Canada)

The following is the summary from what I understood of Obama’s press conference.  Please do correct if anything is misconstrued:

11:10 pm.  The following is a summary of the press conference with President Obama reporting on any progress made regarding a tentative agreement (to be voted on tomorrow morning):

  • Financing, mitigation, transparency are key pillars
  • Final vote has not been done (tomorrow), but
  • China, Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Brazil, US key players; all but Ethiopia had a meeting to
  • Max. warming 2 degrees
  • Keeps saying “actions”, but what kind?
  • Engagement of all nations equally
  • Renewable energy development part of developing clean economy
  • Each nation will put their own intentions regarding emission cuts into an appendix, to be subject to international analysis; not legally binding but voluntary, however precise reporting is expected
  • Targets are not sufficient on their own, hence this is a “first step”
  • Challenge for emerging countries in transition as this is the first time they offer mitigation targets
  • Example: US sets its own goals passed through its own house; will not be legally bound by an agreement but will reaffirm its commitment by its own actions (internally)
  • Claims the US entered with a “clean slate” since it was mostly on the sidelines
  • Common but differentiated responsibilities; everyone has to take responsibility, including those countries who need to be aware of their carbon output despite their need to develop (with financing mechanism in place)
  • More work and confidence/trust building between developed and developing nations before a binding treaty can be formed (apparently the US is in favour of a legally binding agreement despite all the internal action)
  • “Science indicates we are going to have to take more aggressive steps in the future”: but how far into the future?
  • This agreement is partially a starter for innovation, and tech breakthroughs are needed for real development, but we can start on what we have (which is the efficiency issue)

So…. basically the only things they have drafted, still to be voted on, are:

  • Maximum 2 degrees of warming
  • Financing mechanisms need to be put in place
  • Transparency and mitigation are important in the process
  • Each nation will annex its own targets
  • Common but differentiated responsibilities
  • Not legally binding, but rather a first step towards more ambitious actions and possible binding agreements in the (indefinite) future


By Caroline Howe

Dear all,

I don’t have much news now, but here’s the text and a few quick notes:
From Obama’s speech:
targets not legally binding
not enough to get where we need to be in 2050
first step, we need to step-it up
for developing countries, first time they offer voluntary targets, important to get that shift in orientation
US had 4 goals (same as the house bill), US not legally bind by anything agreed here but we’ll do it

To note from document:
2 Degrees C
Developing countries and developed nations to make optional commitments that would be verified (thus the empty appendices)
30 billion from 2010 – 2012 for adaptation and mitigation
100 billion a year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation

Most important: this was drafted as a complete green room – five nations (maximum) drafting something for everyone, completly violating UN process.

Will get you more responses from other nations as they arrive.

Action Factory and others converging at Bella now for vigil, Climate Shame banners.

In solidarity,

also from can-talk, transcript of Obama

came with ambitious target; agreed to finance to assist most vulnerable adapt; transparency mitigation finance- consensus; success
feel confident that we are moving to a significant accord; agreed to list national actions and commitments, national communications, set a mitigation not more than 2degrees; meet responsibility to leave this planet safe for our children; need to sustain and action to be sufficient; engagement among nations for mutual interests; begun today; energy, promise of more peaceful tomorrow (green energy, better economy, more secure future); what we have achieved in Copenhagen is not end but beginning
transparency? Cutting emissions? Each nation will be putting concrete commitments into an appendix, those commitments will then be subject to an interatnioanl consultation and analysis; not legally binding; there will be a sense of what they are doing (showing the world they are doing nothing)
with respect to emissions targets, they will not be sufficient to get what we need by 2050
said science says it not enough; this is the first time countries offered up emissions targets; it is importatn to have efficiently gotten this shift in orientation moving
re US
I set goals that are being discussed on a by partisan basis
although we will not be legally bound we will have reaffirmed meeting these targets
this offers us enormous opportunity on the road
– other nations need to accept less than perfect, where did you shift the US position towards this.. how do you expect to reach a legally binding agreement
it will be very hard
the US was coming with somewhat a clean slate
very few obligations on developing counties
enormous economic growth and industialiyation. Moving fwd necessary, not enough for developed countries to do something, not at the same pace, but something
developing countries are sying that legallz binding can bound their right to devlop and that it would be unfair
both sides have legitimate points
if we begin to acknowledge that devlpg countries are gonna have responsibilities, not exactlz the same as those of devloped, then we are at least starting to reorient ourself
confidence building and greater trust btw before u see another legallz binding treaty to be signed
I am supportive of such efforts, this is a classic example of a situation where if we jst waited for that it might never happen
ultimately this issue is gonna be dictated bz science ßß_ more aggressive steps in the future, bz investing in clean energz,…
by beginning to make progress and getting the wheels of innovation moving we ..
we will need tech breakthrough, for the moment we need to get moving
we did some good groundwork during the course of this yr so our position can be clear
the one principle I brought is that whatever commitment we make we can keep
there was interest on the part of some to increase our targets although when you look at 2025 and 2030 our targets are comparable to europe
I wanna make sure that whatever we promise we will deliver
clean energy is gonna require significant effort, we need to make sure we are not going too far ahead of ourselves
legislative priority next year
appendix these countries
if you look at a country like india for poor people, even voluntarily when you say we will reduce emissions by 20% we applaud them for that. The problem is not transparency, we can monitor what they do..
if its not legally binding what prevents us from saying everyone fell short of their goals..
response, that is why we should aim for a legally binding agreement..
kyoto was legally binding but countries fell short anyway

instead of that happening let’s aim for mutual obligations… and strive for a more binding framework over time..
lots of ppl say science says we need to move for xyz.. but international laws are only as strong as countries make them
what we need to do is to build trust among countries


Live from Copenhagen

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