Hope For Copenhagen?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The climate summit that kicks off in Copenhagen next week may turn out to be more eventful than you might expect, thanks to significant promises from the US and China in recent days.

Last week, the White House confirmed that Obama will make a pit stop at the summit and announce that the United States is committing to reducing planet-warming emissions in the neighborhood of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The next day, the Chinese government announced a goal of reducing their carbon intensity—the amount of greenhouse gas emitted per unit of gross domestic product—by up to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Since the US and China together are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s emissions, these commitments are expected to have a real impact on the negotiations.

That’s not to say that these goals are as ambitious as they could be, though. The Chinese target doesn’t represent an absolute reduction in emissions. It’s based on reducing emissions in relation to GDP—meaning that total emissions can continue to rise as China’s economy grows.

And the US target is still far lower than those set by our European counterparts and those that the developing world has called for. Most of the rest of the world is working to get emissions below 1990 levels. The EU, for instance, has committed to slashing emissions 20 percent under 1990 levels by 2020 and has said it would go to 30 percent if other nations follow suit. The US cuts are only around 4 percent below 1990 levels. When world leaders agreed on the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Clinton administration promised to reduce emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, although of course the Senate later scuttled that plan.

Still, these are the first meaningful, concrete numbers that the US and China have put on the table, raising hopes that the summit will make some advances even in the absence of a binding treaty.

The summit’s host government in Denmark released its draft proposal today outlining what an agreement at the end of the two-week summit should look like. The draft calls for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. The bulk of those cuts would come from industrialized nations, which would need to cut emissions roughly 80 percent by 2050. The draft also proposes that total worldwide emissions should peak in 2020, decline thereafter, and global average temperature should not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Farenheit).

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he expects a five to eight page “politically binding” agreement to emerge from the summit, ideally one that includes 2020 targets for rich nations. He’s also calling for a 2010 deadline for a final treaty.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate