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A Comprehensive Ethical Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord

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If climate change must be understood as a civilization challenging ethical problem, what can be said about the positions taken by governments and results achieved at the December 2009 Copenhagen conference.

To evaluate what happened in Copenhagen one must understand that the Copenhagen meeting was only the last in almost two decades of meetings that have failed to achieve a global solution to climate change. Copenhagen was the 19th meeting of governments from around the world that have been meeting every year since 1990 to forge a comprehensive climate change regime. Copenhagen was also the 15th conference of the parties (COP-15) since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into effect in 1994 (UN 1992).

For more than twenty years some nations have been taking positions on climate change that raise serious ethical concerns. Copenhagen meeting was no exception. However, there were two issues that arose with a new force in Copenhagen. They were the intensity and frequency of calls for: (a) global justice, and (b) increased funding for adaptation programs in vulnerable developing countries (Brown 2009a).

Yet, at the conclusion of the Copenhagen conference, as we shall see, little was accomplished in response to these issues or the other climate change disputes that have now plagued climate negotiations for almost two decades. Although, as we shall see, some have pointed to a few positive Copenhagen outcomes, most observers have judged COP-15 to be a disaster.

The Copenhagen conference took place from December 7–19, 2009. Copenhagen was intended to be the culmination of a two-year negotiating process that was agreed to in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007.

In 1990 negotiations began that led in 1992 to opening for signature and ratification of the UNFCCC. This treaty itself does not contain binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limitations for countries but nevertheless includes numerous other binding national climate change obligations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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