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Copenhagen a failure, green groups say

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Climate change

Rudd and Wong at Copenhagen Conference

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong at the conclusion of the much-anticipated but ultimately underwhelming Copenhagen Conference.

Credit: Australian Science Media Centre

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The closing of the Copenhagen climate talks has left many green groups and climate experts cold, and with fears that global ambition is simply too low to tackle the mounting problem of climate change.

At the end of the conference, some of the attending parties accepted the last-minute 'Copenhagen Accord' - a loose and non-binding agreement addressing a small handful of issues, including the establishment of a financing package to help developing nations adapt to climate change

There was, however, no agreement reached on a long-term global greenhouse gas mitigation target, nor was there an agreement of any time frame for global emissions to peak and subsequently drop. Both are necessary, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations at 450ppm and to avoid global temperature rises of more than 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels.

"This is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but, with 190 nations around the table, this is a solid, strong step forward," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the Accord, speaking to SBS World News Australia.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed the Prime Minister's approach, welcoming the deal but acknowledging its weaknesses.

"Bringing world leaders to the table paid off. We have the foundation for the first truly global agreement that will limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptation for the most vulnerable and launch a new era of green growth," he said.

"The Copenhagen Accord may not be everything that everyone hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is a beginning, an essential beginning."

But green groups around the globe are less than impressed by the outcome.

"Well meant but half-hearted pledges to protect our planet from dangerous climate change are simply not sufficient to address a crisis that calls for completely new ways of collaboration across rich and poor countries," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF's Global Climate Initiative.

"Millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities lie in the difference between rhetoric and reality on climate change action."

In theory politicians around the world seem to be in agreement that we must stay below the 2⁰C threshold of unacceptable risks of climate change, WWF said, but in practice what world leaders have put on the table adds up to 3⁰C of warming or more.

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