After two-weeks of negotiations and amid rising speculation and anxiety, the COP-15 concluded last week with the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding treaty to reduce carbon emissions among developed nations while simultaneously providing financial support to developing countries most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of global climate change.
Heralded by some, criticized by others, the operative word in this Accord, the word which may ultimately determine the long-term implications of this historic summit is non-binding. Though final terms of the agreement are still being negotiated the current lack of enforcement surrounding these pledges have led many to question its true significance.
Of course the fact that any deal was reached at all comes as a somewhat unexpected though pleasant surprise. Media reports for months leading up to the conference cast overwhelmingly gloomy projections on possible U.S. involvement. Ironically, now that a deal has been reached, much credit is being given to the 11th hour involvement of both Secretary Clinton and President Obama.
While final details regarding national commitments will continue to emerge over the coming weeks, critics and supporters alike may benefit from a shift in focus away from treaties and pledges, and towards the existing local level action, innovation, and results. Throughout our week in Copenhagen we were surrounded by local leaders, NGO’s, private sector investors, and academics demonstrating that they not only have the will and the capacity to affect real change, but that they are already doing it.
Messages of optimism reverberated from these groups. In contrast to the guarded nature of nation-level talks, local-level leaders (the second largest delegation next to the host country) met enthusiastically to share experiences and offer support for each other’s efforts. Local leaders across the global spoke with a unified voice – we are the innovators, implementers, and decision makers in our communities; directly feeling the impacts of a changing climate we have not waited in taking action.