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Copenhagen–10 Years On

December 18, 2019

By Paul Homewood


It’s the tenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Climate Accord, so let’s reflect on how things have progressed since.



First, what the summit was supposedly all about, carbon dioxide emissions:

ScreenHunter_5339 Jan. 02 18.49

BP Energy Review

These have increased by 26% in the last ten years, and show no sign of peaking.

Meanwhile, renewable has barely made a dent in primary energy consumption, with its share increasing to only 4% last year. The increase in fossil fuel usage is fourfold that of renewables.

Climate Aid

Although Copenhagen was widely regarded as a failure at the time, one of the big hopes was that it would kickstart a programme of climate aid. According to the BBC:

The deal promises to deliver $30bn (£18.5bn) of aid for developing nations over the next three years. It outlines a goal of providing $100bn a year by 2020 to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change.

The accord says the rich countries will jointly mobilise the $100bn, drawing on a variety of sources: “public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”

Most of the time since Copenhagen seems to have been spent debating what qualifies as aid. Developed countries want to include pretty much everything in it, even commercial loans which have to be repaid at interest.

Understandably, the poorer countries thought they were being promised new money, over and above existing aid, that did not have to be repaid.

The Paris Agreement, of course, kicked the whole issue down the road, by refusing to set any legally binding targets.

As far as the UK is concerned, climate aid will total £5.8bn for the period 2016/17 to 2020/21. However, as BEIS makes clear, this money comes from within the existing overseas aid budget.

While it is true this budget has increased since 2009, this is because of the decision to link aid to GDP. So this extra money would have been spent on aid regardless. The £5.8bn for climate aid has simply been diverted from other parts of the aid budget, where it may have been more usefully spent.

More significantly, given that ODA will only increase in line with GDP in future, there will be further meaningful increases in climate aid, unless it is taken from other aid schemes.

I have seen little evidence of any significant amounts of new money on a global basis, nor any sign that this will hit $100bn a year by 2020.

Legal Status

One of the big “disappointments” at the time was the lack of anything legally binding within the Copenhagen Accord.

Hopes were expressed that this would quickly be put right, but nothing has really changed since.

Apart from a few administrative matters, the Paris Agreement was specifically non binding. As far as emission reductions go, Paris only obliges developed countries to “pursue domestic mitigation measures” with the aim of achieving promised reductions. There is no penalty for countries who don’t meet targets or “pursue mitigation measures”.

For developing countries, the Paris Agreement is even weaker:

“to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances”.

As already noted, Paris does not add to the Copenhagen Accord as far as climate aid is concerned.  It merely rolls the Copenhagen pledge up to 2025, at which stage a new goal will be set.

Again, there is nothing legally binding about the pledged aid, nor any definition of how it should be calculated.


Essentially the political divide remains between developed and developing countries, but particularly between the West and China/India. Little changed in this respect between Copenhagen and Paris.

On the one hand, the US and EU have wanted a legally binding, global climate change agreement with emission reduction commitments from all countries. (Of course, Trump’s election has muddied the water somewhat!)

On the other, China and India are adamant they should retain their “developing country” status, allowing to them to carry on increasing emissions for as long as they want.

Poorer countries meantime are only really interested in the money, which they believe has not been given yet.



In short, in the ten years since Copenhagen, little has really changed:

  • Emissions continue to climb, and look likely to carry on doing so.
  • Transition to a renewable energy world is painfully slow, and not even keeping up with rising energy demand.
  • Promises of $100bn a year in climate aid remain pie in the sky
  • There is no prospect of a treaty which binds all countries to specific emission reductions.
  • Above all, there is absolutely no possibility that global emissions will reduce fast enough and far enough to the levels demanded by climate scientists.

The Copenhagen Accord dashed the hopes of those who believed it would begin the fightback against global warming. Yet we appear to be no further forward now.




The graph for carbon dioxide emissions was based on incorrect data, and has been replaced.

  1. December 18, 2019 8:13 am

    Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it!.

  2. December 18, 2019 8:47 am

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  3. Pancho Plail permalink
    December 18, 2019 8:55 am

    I was trying to find up to date information on how one of the poster children from that Conference had fared over the last 10 years, the island of Tuvalu. Maybe I am not good with Google, or maybe it is just that the real figures are drowned out by political posturing, but nothing factual and recent appeared on my searches.
    One comment that did stand out, however, was from Jo Nova commenting on the plight of another Pacific Island, Kiribati, after someone likened its plight to the Titanic – she said it was sinking just like the Titanic, but 59 million times slower.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      December 18, 2019 9:29 am

      Capital: Funafuti Area: 25.9 km² Population: 11,192 (2017) World Bank
      Funafuti atoll consists of a narrow sweep of land between 20 and 400 metres (66 and 1,312 feet) wide, encircling a large lagoon (Te Namo) of about 18 km (11 miles) long and 14 km (9 miles) wide.

      The claim: Liberal MP and climate sceptic Craig Kelly made headlines in November when he was caught on tape mocking “lefties” for exaggerating the effects of climate change.
      Speaking at a local party event, audio of which was leaked to the Guardian, Mr Kelly set out to debunk several justifications for climate change action, including the argument that Tuvalu, the Pacific island nation, was slipping beneath the sea.

      “The science tells us that Tuvalu, which I often hear about, is actually growing not sinking,” he told colleagues.
      Is Tuvalu growing? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.
      The verdict (which must have been galling to the ABC [ BBC-lite in some quarters}
      Mr Kelly’s claim checks out.
      In the four decades to 2014, Tuvalu’s total land area grew by 73 hectares, or 2.9 per cent.
      The expert behind this research told Fact Check the nation’s islands were continually adjusting, and that the new land was habitable.

      HELP. Tuvalu needswants your money!

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 18, 2019 12:12 pm

      From Australia’s BoM Monthly sea levels:

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    December 18, 2019 9:35 am

    I have just heard Lord Deben (sometime Mr Gummer) chair of our ridiculously dangerous Climate Change Committee , on BBC Today prog saying that we must all buy electric cars and insulate our houses otherwise we reach a tipping point in ten years and consequently doom. Why didn’t the BBC ask him how come given we are only responsible for just over one per cent of global emissions? Oh, yes, we must all exchange our gas boilers for ‘something cleaner’. This mad old booger is planning to put a lot of people out of work.

    • December 18, 2019 10:09 am

      Ruined my morning tea listening to those two idiots. Of course without climate change they would both be out of a job so they keep plugging it and, shamefully, the BBC allows no-one to disagree. Meanwhile we’re having our third day in the far north of freezing cold, hard frost, barely a breath of wind (sorry, that twig moving was a bird landing on it) and very short hours of sun. With SNP fixation on no fossil fuels or nuclear heaven help us in future.
      Seem to remember they ran out of limos. to ferry the important delegates around at that Copenhagen meeting and had to borrow some from next door. They were no more serious then than they are now.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      December 18, 2019 10:42 am

      To be fair, let’s say there are 100 countries, each responsible for 1% of emissions. If each halves their emissions unilaterally…

      The unspoken problem is not that our emissions are small but that too many of the big emitters and those who want to become big emitters think improving the lives of their citizens today is more important than perhaps improving their lives in 50 years. In other words, without global agreement it’s a waste of time ys doing anything, but global agreement is nigh on impossible.

  5. Phoenix44 permalink
    December 18, 2019 10:37 am

    Yet we are continually told that only multilateral action can tackle issues like Climate Change?

    What is apparent from these seemingly endless jamborees is that multilateral action is impossible, given the conflicting agendas of the participants.

    Who would have thought that it was incredibly difficult to get 100 odd countries to agree what to do?

  6. bobn permalink
    December 18, 2019 10:38 am

    Remember all this target setting and missing is utterly ridiculous and pointless. The climate will change naturally as it has always done regardless of whether any of these targets are met or missed. What a total farce and waste of resources on fatcats parading at conferences and writing position papers whose only beneficial use is to be screwed up and used to light a wood burner.

  7. December 18, 2019 10:49 am

    Now who could have predicted that renewable energy would be barely visible on a graph of primary energy consumption? Engineers and physicists of course. How many politicians and members of the NGOs and media are engineers and physicists? Certainly a far smaller percentage than renewable energy is a percentage of primary energy consumption.

    I wonder how many MPs we now have who are engineers or proper scientists? I think the number has been falling and is now much less than 1%.

  8. Gray permalink
    December 18, 2019 12:16 pm

    Anybody got any estimates of the CO2 output from the NZ volcano relative to UK emissions?

  9. Broadlands permalink
    December 18, 2019 1:43 pm

    “Above all, there is absolutely no possibility that global emissions will reduce fast enough and far enough to the levels demanded by climate scientists.”

    Of course not. Reducing carbon fuel emissions quickly means severe damage to our transportation. That should be obvious simply because a great many of those emissions are from gasoline, diesel and biofuels. No petrol? No movement…especially a reduction all the way to Net-Zero. One doesn’t need to be a climate scientist, or even a vocal teenaged climate alarmist, to see that is what would happen in the absence of PV vehicles on the roads and in the air.

  10. December 18, 2019 11:44 pm

    All this crap-show ever does is providing cheap excuses for politicians. Most politicians that have signed up to Copenhagen are not in office anymore. Or they will be gone very soon. They know that when they sign for goals that are 20 or more years in the future. At the moment of signing he/she can pose as the big good guy and goal-getter justifying even more and sweeter time at the taxpayer’s expense. They know that all those goals they sign up to are unrealistic and that they will never be met. But that does not matter to him/her. All that matters is the moment for those frauds. After them the deluge. n alternative would, of course, be to deal honestly with whatever real problem we might have – but that’s bad business. People want to be fooled and politicians are happily exploiting that sentiment.

  11. December 19, 2019 10:09 am

    Uptake of renewables can’t even match the *increase* in world energy usage, never mind the total usage itself. Coal, gas and oil are far ahead.

    The whole ‘carbon neutral’ thing is an utter farce in terms of the climate. Air quality is a different matter altogether.

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