Good news from Copenhagen ’s failure: It is time to reform world environmental governance

, by Joan Marc Simon

Good news from Copenhagen 's failure: It is time to reform world environmental governance

The results of 2 years of negotiations to save the planet ended up in 2 pages of non-binding deals without any tool to enforce them. In short: Copenhagen negotiations are the biggest failure in world negotiations and diplomacy of the last decades.

In the end, US and China , completely bypassing the UN, decided that the rest of the world can go to hell and decided to pull the hand-break. Copenhagen is an amazingly fabulous failure; a betrayal to the purpose our politicians are elected for.

This exercise of prepotence and dismissal from the US and China towards the rest of the world will have deadly impacts in the trust in international multilateral negotiations.

But this colossal failure has the potential of bringing to the stage a major problem to which nobody wanted to pay attention to: the way negotiations take place are key to understand why the outcome has been nothing but a waste of time, resources and trust. The UNFCCC is not the right institutional setting to deliver the appropriate decisions and provide its implementation and enforcement.

It was very sad to see that during the negotiations the “relevant” countries were negotiating among themselves bypassing the other countries –even the EU!- and even the UN, the facilitator of the whole thing, didn’t know what was going on.

The UNFCCC has lost all credibility as manager of international relations to fight climate change.

The role of the UNFCCC right now can be compared with the League of Nations during the years preceding the WWII, when Hitler was occupying Austria and Czecoslovaquia the other nations were wasting their time in the multilateral talks in the League of Nations . Meanwhile, Hitler and Mussolini were fooling Chamberlain and Daladier in bilateral negotiations. This is why the European Union was created after WWII; as a result of the experience that integration works but cooperation clearly doesn’t. If we want the world to be able to face the threats of Climate Change it needs to integrate and that can only be done by creating global democratic and accountable institutions where the world interest is represented.

Once again Copenhagen has demonstrated that the sum of the national interests is very far from delivering the world interest. It is hence vital that we build institutions that allow the world interest to be represented. A first step in this direction would be to constitute a “world parliament” in line with what the UNPA demands. The second step would require the reform of the world financial institutions (IMF and World Bank) so that they can levy taxes and democratically administer a budget aiming at reducing emissions. The third step would be the creation of a kind of a world government (replacing the security council) charged with the mission to deal with the crisis situations that climate change is causing.

Some environmentalists like Lester Brown argued that the problem is so immediate and huge that we don’t have time to reform the world institutions; we only have time to act! Well, the result of Copenhagen proves them wrong. These are the sad good news to be learnt from the Copenhagen failure.

Obama can’t save the world, neither can the EU nor China. The world can only be saved if we act together, and we can’t act together in the frame of UNFCCC. It is mandatory that UNFCCC is abandoned –it is no longer trusted big majority of the countries- and a new setting is created, a setting capable of providing democratic and accountable results. It is the time for world democracy!

I know it is difficult to have world democracy stemming from non democratic countries but no matter how imperfect it can be, it won’t deliver less than the last 2 years of negotiations of UNFCCC.

Image: conference in Copenhagen, source:

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