Well, it’s clear that Copenhagen didn’t achieve what was hoped. It probably never could, given the lack of any emissions legislation in the US and the game-playing between developed and developing nations (for which read US and China).
So, setting aside the recriminations, what did happen? Here’s the potted explanation of what was/wasn’t achieved:
• There is now pretty much a worldwide agreement that global warming should be kept to no more than 2oC. (You may wonder why 192 nations had to get together to agree that). Even at the 2oC level, global warming will have a significant impact around the world.
• There is, though, no agreement on what emissions cuts are required to achieve this objective, i.e. no 2020 or 2050 emissions reductions targets were agreed.
• What was agreed was that within six weeks the rich, developed countries will register the emissions cuts they intend to make by 2020. However, with no agreed targets this leaves it up to the individual countries to make their own decisions.
• Developed countries will provide poorer countries with ‘approaching’ $30bn of funding in 2010-2012 to help address the impact of climate change.
• Developed countries have also committed to a ‘goal of mobilizing’ $100bn a year by 2020 to support developing countries. So it’s not guaranteed and is intended to come from a variety of public and private sources.
• It was agreed that funding would be made available to help prevent deforestation, but the details are yet to be agreed.
• No deadline was set to achieve a legally binding emissions reduction agreement in the foreseeable future, although there is hope that something might be achieved in Mexico in a year’s time.
Depending on who you listen to this is either an unmitigated disaster or a necessary stepping stone to a legally binding global emissions agreement.
What does it mean for the ICT sector? Well, the theory was that a global agreement would result in a rush of national legislation which, in turn, would inevitably drive the need for the technology to meet targets. Now that immediate impetus is not there. Perhaps worse, the lack of agreement will lead to protectionism – no country wants to undermine its own industry with more emissions cuts than its neighbour. For example, the EU had said it would increase its 2020 emissions reduction to 30% if other countries agreed to a deal, but they didn’t.
Of course technology will still be a major plank of emissions reductions, keeping global warming to 2oC can’t be done without it, but it may be a longer, slower process.
From another perspective, you could argue that with politics failing to deliver, it’s technology, including ICT, that’s the main hope in getting us through.