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Countries pull together in the final hours of Copenhagen

Heather Allen

Posted December 19, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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In the wee hours of the morning countries united to support the Copenhagen Accord, overcoming a nearly crushing diplomatic challenge.  My colleagues Jake Schmidt and David Doniger watched the agreement unfold and sent us copious notes and reports from inside the Bella Center’s plenary hall. 

As I read each country’s statement, in what proved to be a very emotional UN session, it became clear that most countries (188 of the 193 parties at current count) wanted to support the people most vulnerable to climate change by moving forward with the Copenhagen Accord.  The countries that have determined not to support the Accord are Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Sudan.  In an impressive show of unity the remaining 188 countries pulled together in what many saw as a step forward toward global action on climate.

The back and forth between parties at the United Nations can often seem bureaucratic and a bit boring, but not at 3 A.M. this morning as the exhausted leaders found the courage to address climate as a truly global body.  Some have called this a test of multilateralism; and rather than trying to determine whether we passed, I have highlighted some paraphrased statements by leaders from many parts of the world.

MALDIVES:  The talks here are at risk, yet the science suggests that we have only seven years to act.  In the last few days Maldives has sat with 25 other countries to build a document.  Though it is not perfect, this document allows us to continue the talks and come to a legally binding agreement.  Please do not delete this document. 

ETHIOPIA: On behalf of the African Union, Ethiopia recognizes that this document is a compromise and postponing is not an option.

UNITED KINGDOM:  We have two roads to choose from, the first is to support the document which is imperfect but will improve people’s lives.  The document offers 30 billion in fast start funds and 100 billion in long term funds.  The other road undermines this process.

At this point in the conversation, the UN body faced a procedural challenge because the group generally operates on consensus but could not easily move forward with 5 of the 193 countries opposing the document.  Slovenia offered an elegant solution proposing that the document could be adopted along with a list of the countries that support and oppose it.

BANGLEDESH: As one of the most vulnerable countries we assert the need to make every effort in the right direction.

GRENADA: On behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, we stand by the document and we stand by the process.  Many countries including the United States, UK, Russia, South Africa, Algeria, Denmark, Ethiopia, South Korea, China, Brazil and more participated in these talks.  The negotiations weren’t easy but we support the outcome.

JAPAN: We are here to save not only the islands but also to save future generations. 

PHILLIPINES:  We have to move forward to protect the world.

ALGERIA:  This text defines the main elements of a financial mechanism and includes technology transfer and short-term finance.  Africa wants to be part of the solution, we urge this summit: make the right choice! 

BARBADOS, BELIZE and TUVALU noted that the parties all worked very hard and the process should go forward.  Tuvalu said ‘please don’t jeopardize our future’.

LESOTHO: On behalf of the Least Developed Countries, we support the accord.

MALDIVES:  There are many countries who need this document.  I implore you please keep this document alive and adopt this document.

In the end the session went through the morning and into the mid-afternoon.  The group decided to use Slovenia’s proposal to adopt a decision which ‘noted the Copenhagen Accord.’  As of writing, the list of countries which supported the Accord are not yet included in the document on the UN’s website, but that will certainly be finalized in the next few days.

After two weeks of participating in the Copenhagen Climate Talks (one of the most amazing and engrossing experiences of my life), a path forward was paved by broad agreement among 188 countries to address climate change together. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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