Climate change deal years away

The legally binding treaty which many had hoped would be achieved at last year’s Copenhagen summit will not be achieved for several years, an expert has warned.

Michael Jacobs, who served as Gordon Brown’s special adviser on climate change, told a fringe event at the Labour party conference in Manchester that Copenhagen was “just the wrong moment in history” for a deal to be achieved.

In the event December 2009’s Copenhagen summit of the UN Convention on Climate Change only resulted in a non-binding political agreement between 28 states, leading environmental campaigners to dismiss the event as a failure.

Mr Jacobs blamed “geopolitics” for the lack of progress at the summit, saying emerging economies like Brazil, South Africa, China and India were unwilling to make major concessions to flex their growing muscle on the world stage.

He pointed out a clause allowing countries to “associate” with the Copenhagen accord by inserting their own domestic targets into its text.

Since last December over 130 countries have associated with the accord and over 80 have put in their emissions reductions commitments.

“It’s significant not as an international agreement but as a set of domestic agreements around the world,” Mr Jacobs said.

“A treaty is now several years off, but I see tremendous hope in what is going on now in individual countries.”

He explained the individual commitments were “stronger” than a global deal because of the political commitments made at domestic levels.

Emily Thornberry, a junior minister in the Department of Energy and Climate Change who attended the Copenhagen summit, said the negotiations were complex “like multi-dimensional chess”.

She blamed the lack of progress at the summit on poor organisation, saying “you had to queue for hours to get into the damn building” and pointed out the heating broke down.

“People got more and more bad-tempered because they were cold,” she explained.

Ms Thornberry, whose constituency is the least greenest in the country, reserved praise for the energy and climate change secretary of the time, however.

She added: “Frankly very few people came out of Copenhagen with any credibility, but Ed Miliband did.”

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