No legally binding agreement on climate change reached at UN summit

[JURIST] While no legally binding agreement was reached at the conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) [official website] in Copenhagen, Denmark, 192 UN member countries agreed Saturday to “take note” [press release] of a non-binding Copenhagen Accord [text, PDF] developed by leaders of the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa aspiring to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and establishing a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund to assist poor nations in reducing the effects of climate change [JURIST news archive]. The Accord also establishes Annexes where countries will pledge, but not be legally bound, to national targets for emission reductions by 2020. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official website] emphasized [text] the importance of turning the agreement into a legally binding treaty. Ban said:

The Copenhagen Accord may not be everything that everyone hoped for. But this decision of the Conference of Parties is a new beginning, an essential beginning…We have the foundation for the first truly global agreement that will limit and reduce greenhouse gas emission, support adaptation for the most vulnerable, and launch a new era of green growth.
The COP15 conference was originally designed to produce a global climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], which expires in 2012. Earlier this month, Ban announced [JURIST report] that a legally binding treaty should be ready in 2010. Before the opening of the COP15, however, Ban, US President Barack Obama and Director of the UN secretary-general's Climate Change Support Team Janos Pasztor [JURIST reports] expressed doubt that a legally-binding agreement could be reached during the conference. Negotiations on the new climate change treaty began [JURIST report] last year in Bangkok. In October, a UN official working on preparations for COP15 said US hesitancy to pass a climate bill could doom the conference [JURIST report]. The US never signed the Kyoto Protocol, but in March this year, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change announced [JURIST report] that the US under the Obama administration is committed [video] to the creation of an international treaty designed to combat global warming, although he added that such efforts will only succeed if they are economically feasible.

 

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