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UN Climate Change Conference Concludes by Taking Note of the “Copenhagen Accord”

21dic_09_0119 December 2009: The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place from 7-19 December 2009, and included the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the UNFCCC and the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 5). At the close of the meeting, parties adopted a COP decision whereby the COP decides to "take note" of the "Copenhagen Accord," which was developed through informal consultations during the high-level segment and was attached to the decision as an unofficial document. Parties also agreed to establish a procedure whereby countries supporting the Copenhagen Accord can accede to it.

COP 15 and COP/MOP 5 were held in conjunction with the 31st sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 31) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 31), the tenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 10) and the eighth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 8). Close to 115 world leaders attended the joint COP and COP/MOP high-level segment from 16-18 December, marking the largest gathering of world leaders outside of New York, US. The Conference was subject to unprecedented public and media attention, and over 40,000 people, representing governments, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, media, faith-based organizations and other UN agencies applied for accreditation.

Many hoped that the Copenhagen Climate Conference would be able to "seal the deal" and result in a fair, ambitious and equitable agreement, setting the world towards a path to avoid dangerous climate change. To this end, what many characterized as "intense negotiations" took place over the two weeks at the level of experts, ministers and Heads of State. But questions concerning transparency and process played out during the meeting, with differences emerging, inter alia, on whether work should be carried out in a smaller "friends of the chair" format as well as on a proposal by the Danish COP Presidency to table two texts reflecting the work done by the AWGs. Many parties rejected this idea, urging that only texts developed in the AWGs by parties should be used.

During the high-level segment, informal negotiations took place in a group consisting of major economies and representatives of regional groups. Late on the final Friday evening, these talks resulted in political agreement entitled the "Copenhagen Accord," which was not based on the texts developed by either of the AWGs. Details of the agreement were widely reported by the media before the COP closing plenary. While most reports highlighted that Heads of State had been able to "seal the deal," almost everyone participating in the negotiations openly admitted that it was "far from a prefect agreement."

During the closing COP plenary, which lasted nearly 13 hours, long and what many characterized as "acrimonious" discussions ensued on the transparency of the process that had led to the conclusion of the Copenhagen Accord and on whether the COP should adopt it. Most negotiating groups supported its adoption as a COP decision in order to operationalize it as a step towards "a better" future agreement. Some developing countries, however, opposed the Accord reached during what they characterized as an "untransparent" and "undemocratic" negotiating process. During informal negotiations facilitated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the night and early morning, parties agreed to adopt a COP decision whereby the COP decides to "take note" of the Copenhagen Accord, which was attached to the decision as an unofficial document. Parties also agreed to establish a procedure whereby countries supporting the Copenhagen Accord can accede to it.

While many recognized the historical significance of the Conference, most delegates left Copenhagen disappointed at what they saw as a "weak agreement," questioning its practical implications given that the Copenhagen Accord had not been formally adopted as the outcome of the negotiations.[IISD Coverage of the Conference]