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Failure of the Copenhagen Summit on climate change

In late 2009, the Copenhagen Summit concluded with only a simple political statement affirming the need to limit the global average temperature increase to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels (1750). There was, however, no agreement on how to do this in practical terms. In particular, it failed to agree on limiting greenhouse gas emissions and the question of forming a global environmental agency was side-lined.

This failure was related to many developed countries' refusal to adopt restrictive targets on limiting emissions by 2020 and to developing countries' insistence on their right to develop their economies. The lack of success in Copenhagen also highlighted the limitations of inter-governmental procedures when trying to agree on the management of public assets globally. Nor did the new economic context, characterised by the financial and then the economic crisis, facilitate the negotiations.

Since the Copenhagen Summit, conferences have been held annually (Cancun 2010, Durban 2011, Doha 2012, Warsaw 2013 and Lima, to be held later in 2014) in an attempt to reach a global agreement in Paris in late 2015 that could become effective from 2020 as the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There are two key negotiating points: agreeting on voluntary national targets consistent with an effective global response to climate change, and resolving the question of how to finance the efforts of developing countries.

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