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Did Copenhagen Live Up to Expectations?

Kevin Tuerff mug newIn November, I responded to a GlobeScan survey of 770 climate change experts. It was fielded right before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) to gauge the expectations of NGOs, research organizations, businesses and governments in 104 countries.

The results were just published, and I found it enlightening to compare them to my experiences here in Copenhagen, where I served as a delegate for the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. This is what I found:

Europe was expected to lead

In November, fully 80 percent of the respondents expected Europe would play the leadership role here at COP15 in setting ambitious targets to address climate change as quickly as possible.

As for the EU taking charge? Based on what I’ve seen, I’d give them a “B” so far. The dynamics are changing with all the heads of state here, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been playing a key role, but initial mistrust of the developed world’s intentions have created a gap that is hard to bridge. COP 15 president Connie Hedegaard and UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer deserve a medal for managing protests and posturing, while exerting pressure on countries to find consensus.

The White House and US State Department deserve tremendous credit for mobilizing federal funding commitments and problem solving with the major economies.

We all saw the financial obstacles

For those who participated in the survey, only 16 percent believed an agreement on managing the money committed to helping the developing countries would come to fruition. While it’s looking like we might have all been right, I don’t think any of us expected the G77 to play hardball over such issues (hear the interview I got after the walkout with Obed Bapela, South Africa Member of Parliament.)

The mood of most everyone in Copenhagen was hopeful about prospects for implementing clean energy solutions to boost the world economy.

Of course, we thought the focus would be on the BRIC + Europe and America

Even the structure of the survey focused on what the Brazilians, Russians, Indians and Chinese (BRIC) would do, as compared to the U.S. and EU. Since the weekend, however, it has been the much larger bloc of traditionally under-considered players within the G77 who have been making the headlines. From the walkout, to protests and speeches, the rift between the “haves” and the “have nots” couldn’t be more clear.

Many (73 percent) wanted a comprehensive, ambitious agreement; few (8 percent) expected it

The survey showed most respondents (57 percent) were expecting COP15 to produce a political agreement in principle with negotiations for a legally binding agreement continuing into 2010. The expectation was that wouldn’t happen without strong alignment between China and the U.S. — ostensibly the two leaders of the developing vs. developed worlds.

Many will be disappointed with the outcome of COP 15, but the reality is great progress has been made by the Obama administration in less than one year, and there is great optimism about passage of legislation in the US, with another shot at a new UN global protocol in 2010, in Mexico.

Kevin Tuerff, CEO of Green Canary Sustainability Consulting and President of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, is reporting for Environmental Leader from the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark. More updates available at GreenDetectives.net.

Kevin Tuerff
Kevin Tuerff, CEO of Green Canary Sustainability Consulting and President of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, is reporting for Environmental Leader from the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark. More updates available at GreenDetectives.net.
 
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