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Fallout from Copenhagen Felt in Businesses and World Capitals

Reverberations from the disappointing Copenhagen climate summit continued to be felt worldwide, with political leaders blaming each other for the meeting’s outcome, U.S. senators saying that the lack of progress will make it harder for Congress to pass a climate bill, European Union carbon prices falling, and some businesses lamenting the continuing lack of uncertainty about future CO2 cuts and carbon prices.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown told an environmental meeting on Monday that a handful of countries blocked a legally binding deal on climate change, adding, “We will not allow a few countries to hold us back. What happened at Copenhagen was a flawed decision-making process. We’ve just got to find a way of moving this process forward.” Although Brown did not mention any countries by name, Ed Miliband, Climate Change and Energy Secretary, specifically mentioned China, noting that it had vetoed proposals calling for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and an 80 percent cut in emissions by developed nations by mid-century. Miliband said China exercised its veto despite support for the proposal by a broad coalition of industrialized nations and the vast majority of developing nations.

Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official signaled that the country would continue to take a tough stance in climate talks, saying the nation’s right to develop was at stake.

“The diplomatic and political wrangling over climate change that is opening up will be focused on the right to develop and space to develop,” said Yi Xianliang of the Foreign Ministry. He said the blame for lack of progress in Copenhagen lay with the industrialized nations, which “retreated from their stances and positions, and then sought to shift the blame to developing countries, especially the big emerging powers.” China’s Premier Wen Jiabao praised the accord, saying, “It was a result that came from hard work on all sides, was accepted by all, didn’t come easy, and should be treasured.”

The accord reached Friday and Saturday is a political declaration in which countries set-out non-binding emissions targets and agreed to create a fund to help developing countries adapt to global warming and adopt renewable energy technology. No future timetable was set to try to forge an agreement on binding emissions reductions. Read the full text of the accord.

U.S senators of both parties said the lack of progress on setting firm emissions reductions targets would make passage of a carbon cap-and-trade bill more difficult when the Senate debates the legislation in earnest early next year. Some Democratic senators from industrial states said they would find it difficult to vote for a bill placing a cap and a price on carbon if other economic powers — most notably China — continued to spew an increasing amount of CO2 into the air and not establish cap-and-trade mechanisms of their own. “We want to be sure we’re not adding yet another cost impact that other countries don’t have to shoulder,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told the Web site Politico. The House of Representatives has already narrowly passed cap-and-trade legislation.

Prices on the European Union’s carbon exchange took their sharpest drop since February, declining nearly 9 percent to 12.40 Euros per ton. Traders said a significant reason for the drop was that the Copenhagen summit did not set emissions reductions targets, which would have boosted demand for the permits.

Globally, some business leaders expressed disappointment that that the summit failed to bring any clarity to the key issue of setting targets — and hence a price — on carbon dioxide emissions. Many business people and analysts said that a binding treaty on emissions cuts would have created a level playing field for renewable energy technologies. “If we’d had bankable emissions reductions targets for 2020, it would have given a stronger price signal for carbon,” said Joan McNaughton, senior vice president for power and environmental policies at Alstom Power SA, an engineering company working on carbon capture and sequestration. Richard Gledhill, head of carbon markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said, “It’s very frustrating at this stage that we haven’t gotten a more comprehensive agreement.”

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The Copenhagen Accords are unbinding and unapproved by any meaningful majority of nations from the conference. But the failure of the UN effort shouldn’t stop businesses and corporations from acting on their own.

If you’re interested in global energy standards, check out It has hundreds of case studies on emerging green technology and emissions standards. It's also the largest b2b green directory on the web.

Posted by: Casey Verdant on 22 Dec 09

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