Journal Articles

Copenhagen Accord: Neither Fish nor Fowl

Lavanya Rajamani


February 8, 2010

THOSE who had predicted in the lead up to the fifteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) that ‘something rotten awaits us in the Kingdom of Denmark’ were vindicated on December 19 when the international community took note of the Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord can plausibly be characterized as ‘rotten’ not just because it is weak and will not contain climate change in its current form, but also because even in this weak form it faces considerable legal and procedural challenges to its operationalization. As a definitive answer to the climate challenge the accord leaves much to be desired.

The Copenhagen Accord was reached among 29 states, including all major emitters and economies, as well as those representing the most vulnerable and least developed.1The Conference of Parties (CoP) neither authorized the formation of this group to negotiate the accord, nor was it kept abreast of the negotiations as they evolved. As this occurred after ten days of repeated procedural irregularities and ill-considered initiatives by the Danish presidency, patience and confidence were wearing thin. Therefore, when the accord was presented to the CoP for adoption late on December 18, it was categorically rejected by, among others, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, Venezuela and Tuvalu. They did so both because of the manifest procedural irregularities in the negotiation of this accord as well as the substantive weaknesses they perceived in it. As CoP decisions require consensus (not unanimity) for adoption, the Conference of Parties, in a night marked by unparalleled histrionics and presidential ineptitude, could only resolve to ‘take[s] note’ of the Copenhagen Accord.

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