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Copenhagen – 10 Years On

Paul Homewood, Not A Lot of People Know That

It’s the tenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Climate Accord, so let’s reflect on how things have progressed since.


First, what the summit was supposedly all about, carbon dioxide emissions:

BP Energy Review

These have increased by 26% in the last ten years, and show no sign of peaking.

Meanwhile, renewable has barely made a dent in primary energy consumption, with its share increasing to only 4% last year. The increase in fossil fuel usage has fourfold that of renewables.

Climate Aid

Although Copenhagen was widely regarded as a failure at the time, one of the big hopes was that it would kickstart a programme of climate aid. According to the BBC:

The deal promises to deliver $30bn (£18.5bn) of aid for developing nations over the next three years. It outlines a goal of providing $100bn a year by 2020 to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change.

The accord says the rich countries will jointly mobilise the $100bn, drawing on a variety of sources: “public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”

Most of the time since Copenhagen seems to have been spent debating what qualifies as aid. Developed countries want to include pretty much everything in it, even commercial loans which have to be repaid at interest.

Understandably, the poorer countries thought they were being promised new money, over and above existing aid, that did not have to be repaid.

The Paris Agreement, of course, kicked the whole issue down the road, by refusing to set any legally binding targets.

As far as the UK is concerned, climate aid will total £5.8bn for the period 2016/17 to 2020/21. However, as BEIS makes clear, this money comes from within the existing overseas aid budget.

While it is true this budget has increased since 2009, this is because of the decision to link aid to GDP. So this extra money would have been spent on aid regardless. The £5.8bn for climate aid has simply been diverted from other parts of the aid budget, where it may have been more usefully spent.

More significantly, given that ODA will only increase in line with GDP in future, there will be further meaningful increases in climate aid, unless it is taken from other aid schemes.

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