Substance or Greenwash: What are the threats in the climate negotiations?

Even after some days of negotiation it is not fully clear how much substance and how much greenwash can be expected in the end of COP15, the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Heinrich Böll Foundation has published together with Germanwatch this background paper on possible elements of a fair climate treaty in line with the climate science.

Obviously there is also the danger that the world leaders will politically agree on a solution that includes loopholes. These are the four main dangers on the way to a Greenwash Agreement:

Danger No. 1 for a Greenwash Agreement: Long-Term Goals Without Short-Term Targets: It could be that a 2 degrees limit and non-binding long-term goals are announced with much fanfare in Copenhagen, but that the binding short-term goals (2020) remain clearly below the benchmark governments set themselves in Copenhagen. Binding short-term targets are the only realistic way for the achievement of long-term goals.

Danger no. 2 for a Greenwash Agreement: The Risk of Loopholes: Given the current state of negotiations, it is likely that we will be confronted with significant loopholes. Then the low reduction targets of industrialized countries would not be worth the paper they are written on.

Danger No. 3 for a Greenwash Agreement: „Politically Binding”: The concept „Politically binding” is a smoke grenade. A „politically binding” agreement would mean putting political will in a sieve through which it can quickly leak out: By no later than the next change of government, a country would not be bound to it anymore. By contrast, an agreement legally binding under international law would pour the political will in a leak-proof bucket, in order to be able to transport it for the distance. If at the end of the climate conference we have a politically binding agreement it would be a greenwash selling the world a sieve as a bucket.

Danger No. 4 for a Greenwash Agreement: „Pledge and Review”: If every country simply submits its own climate and financing targets and these are accepted, then no real climate negotiations are actually taking place. The purpose of the multilateral approach, that all participate and go further than they would otherwise, would be lost.If the legal bindingness is also absent, there will be no dynamic unleashed, only frustration and deadlock.