Copenhagen Climate Summit : If Not An Agreement, At Least a Deal


The recently concluded global climate summit in Copenhagen created tremendous media hype around the world. But when the summit concluded with only a deal, and in no way resulted in a legally binding agreement, the same media started criticizing everyone. For the thousands of media from different parts of the globe who gathered at the Bella Center in the Danish capital in a freezing cold winter, it was like a festival.

Journalists worked overnight to spread their news, views and analysis. The outcome was a massive pileup of news stories that captured the space of the Google search engine for many days, which gave updates in an article every second during the last few days of the climate summit.

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For the record, the UN global climate conference, the biggest in the history of mankind for the cause of the environment, witnessed the participation of over 130 heads of government and states from around the world. Everyone initially said the important summit that took place after two years of preparation must not fail.

But the series of negotiations and discussions proved that the division between the developed (Western) and developing (Eastern) countries remained intact. The diverse and arrogant opinions from America with some other European nations and the subsequent counter attacks by the representatives from China, India and other developing countries were in the media headlines for almost two weeks.


The rich countries, which are responsible for the greenhouse gas emission (and that way for the global warming and climate change) expressed their readiness to reduce their carbon use. But at the same time, they want to compel the developing countries like India to reduce their use of carbon to a greater extent.

The repeated opposition and adjournment of the meetings delayed the acceptance of the resolutions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit, which was supposed to be concluded by December 18 night, continued until the next evening.

US President Barack Obama planned to return home soon after the agreement was signed in Copenhagen, but he had to stay for a longer period in the city to continue pursuing with different government heads. Even Prime Dr Minister Manmohan Singh was delayed because of the continued discussion during Friday midnight.

Finally Obama initiated a break though in the conference, where he convinced BASIC countries namely India, China, Brazil and South Africa to approve a kind of agreement.


An hour-long meeting with the US President, the Indian Prime Minister, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Lula Da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma resulted in a US-BASIC deal, where all parties agreed to take appropriate actions to prevent the global warming exceeding the level of 2 degree Celsius.

Moreover, all the government heads of BASIC and the US ensued for $30 billion as aid to the poor and developing nations in the next three years. It has also agreed to support the US proposed global fund of $100 billion a year by 2020.

But not everyone was happy with the deal. Opposing the initiative, various other developing nations argued that they could not ‘accept a text originally agreed by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa as the blueprint of a wider United Nations plan’ to fight climate change.


It was primarily opposed by Cuba, Sudan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Tuvalu, Costa Rica etc. Even the host country showed reservation to the deal. The Danish Prime Minister and also COP15 president Lars Lokke Rasmussen said that he was not in favour of the proposal.

However Japan, Norway, African nations with the European Union nations came out in support of the proposal. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed the deal as a beginning was acceptable to him. He admitted that ‘it was not an easy task’ and asserted that the Copenhagen climate deal offers hope. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also agreed to the proposal but said she expected more.

The Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh expressed happiness that a good deal for the entire developing world was resolved at the Copenhagen summit.

Someway happy notes were aired by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also when he termed the exercise “an important beginning.” He admitted that it was not satisfactory to a number of delegates as the deal ‘may not be everything everyone had hoped for’. But he firmly commented that finally, ‘We have a deal in Copenhagen, which has an immediate operational effect’.


Amazingly for some moments, the summit that started on December 7 was on the verge of collapse by the second week. Amidst many factors, the continued loggerheads between the United States and China emerged as a major cause of concern. On the other hand, the imposing attitude of the host country to formulate a declaration ignoring the poor and developed nations also put the summit in the worst phase.

Jairam Ramesh, who was camping there for many days, strongly protested against the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen for refusing to explain a draft political declaration that was to be discussed in the meeting of environment ministers. Ramesh made it clear that various procedures were made with less trust on the developing nations like India. However, he said, India wanted to make the summit a success.

Then came the important declaration from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, where she revealed that Washington would help to build a 100 billion dollar annual fund by 2020, to bail out the poor countries coping with the impacts of climate change. But she didn’t forget to criticise China because of its rigid attempts to defy the verification of emission cuts by international agents. Washington prefers Beijing to allow a verification mechanism of China’s gas emissions. Hillary Clinton claimed that an agreement in the summit might be impossible if China, which is the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world (after the US), doesn’t show transparency.

Later, of course, the distance between America and China was narrowed down after Washington declared initiatives of raising 100 billion dollars a year in the coming days for the benefit of poor nations. The representatives from Beijing came forward to welcome the gesture of the US government.

At the same time, the poor countries like Bangladesh, Burma which are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are demanding some bailout packages from the developed countries.

Bangladesh came out with the campaign that the people displaced due to climate change should be recognised as refugees. Talking to media persons, Dhaka representatives argue that the world communities must think about the displaced people because of the adverse climate conditions.

“We are a densely populated country and a hundred thousand poor Bangladeshis still live on islands and coastal areas. They become innocent victims of climate change as they are no way linked to the phenomena,” said Bangladesh’s Environment and Forest Minister Hassan Mahmud.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made an appeal to the developed countries asking for 1.5 per cent of their annual growth for an adaptation corpus fund. Addressing the summit, Hasina stated that Bangladesh expects justice from the international communities.

“We are here with a dream to protect our mother earth and the human race,” she reiterated.

Hasina even lobbied US President Obama as they talked over the phone before coming to Copenhagen. Obama had reportedly assured Hasina that Washington would stand beside Bangladesh in a time of crisis.

After his arrival in the Danish capital by an overnight flight from Washington on December 18, President Obama met a number of influential world leaders before gracing the preliminary high level event. Lots of expectations were aired with Obama’s arrival as a prime mover of the summit to finalize a concrete climate deal.

But contrary to expectations, Obama disappointed the world leaders. In fact, while Obama was speaking in the main auditorium of Bella Center, everyone was expecting some significant declarations from him.

Obama, while urging all the participating countries to compromise on key demands in order to seal an international accord in Copenhagen, didn’t commit any further actions beyond Hillary Clinton’s 100 billion dollar global fund. He only said, America had charted their course and they have made commitments. “We will do what we say,” Obama asserted.

Soon after Obama, Manmohan Singh addressed the gathering, but serious differences were observed in their point of views. Unlike Obama, Dr Singh appealed to the developed countries to deliver with the guidelines of Kyoto Protocol. He insisted in continuing the protocol and argued that ‘any new global accord announced at Copenhagen would go against international opinion if it dilutes the Kyoto Protocol’. He advocated for continued negotiations until 2010 for a globally acceptable climate agreement.

Dr Singh also disclosed that India would deliver on its voluntary target to reduce the emission intensity of GDP growth by around 20 per cent by 2020 as compared to 2005. Moreover, initiatives would be taken to curb the gas emission irrespective of a deal in Copenhagen, he said. The Prime Minister also informed world leaders that New Delhi had planned to generate 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022 and will also improve forest cover in the next few years.

The African nations also advocated for the extension of Kyoto Protocol, which is expiring in the next two years. Addressing the summit, the Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win also supported the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. He claimed that Burma was one of the most climate affected countries in the globe. Cyclone Nargis that hit southern Burma in May 2008 killed over 85,000 people and left nearly 54,000 people missing.

The high level segment of the conference, which was inaugurated on December 15, witnessed the participation of high profile personalities like the Prince of Wales. UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon addressed the gathering and appealed to all the country heads and representatives to go for a comprehensive, ambitious and effective international climate change deal.

The UN chief, while urging the environment ministers from different countries to compromise in the final days of discussions as various factors indicated a failed summit, concluded his remarks with the positive note, “Our future begins today here in Copenhagen.”

Prince Charles of Britain, in his brief speech advocated for a safer planet to our next generation and hence emphasised an accepted and sustainable approach by all concerned. The Prince termed the summit as historic.

“I can only appeal to you to listen to the cries of those who are already suffering from the impact of climate change. The eyes of the world are upon you and it is no understatement to say that, with your signatures, you can write our future,” Prince Charles added.

The distinguished gathering was also addressed by the host Prime Minister Rasmussen, who pointed out that the effect of climate change knows no boundaries and it doesn’t discriminate one from another. “The magnitude of the challenge before us is to translate this political will into a strong political approach,” he concluded.

In fact, the continued hectic discussion among the climate negotiators from different countries, never ending protest and demonstrations carried out by various activists and unbelievable busyness of the environment non-government organisation workers inside and outside the historic Bella Center, the main venue of the summit remained important media highlights for many days.

The Danish government expected around 15,000 delegates for the summit, but to their utter amazement, over 40,000 delegates including a huge number of journalists from both the print and visual media (also web) gathered here. Though it was a difficult and painful task for the organisers to get them registered promptly, they however, provided thousands of laptops with high speed internet connections in the media centre.

Earlier a media training workshop and follow-up CoP 15 coverage was organized at Copenhagen by the World Water Forum of Journalists and the Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists with the support from UNEP, Action Aid and Government of Denmark. It was facilitated by Alex Kirby, former environment editor of BBC and Quamrul Chowdhury, a lead negotiator of G 77 and LDCs. The participant journalists covered the press conferences of delegations like USA, EU, G 77 and LDCs during the CoP 15.

The conference as usual witnessed a series of protests outside the venue. Hundreds of protesters braved the cold weather to demonstrate in front of Bella Center demanding the responsible leaders to go for an accord in Copenhagen. The Danish police used batons to tear gas to disperse the protesters and maintained normalcy during the important summit.

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.