It ended with a whimper. Humanity should be so lucky.
After 12 days of bitter arguments, leaked documents, sit-ins and arrests, negotiators agreed it would be the lowest common denominator all around.
Poor countries didn't want rich countries verifying their results. They got what they wanted.
Rich countries didn't want citizens to sacrifice their cushy lifestyles. They got what they wanted.
After eight drafts, at 1:30 AM Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced that they had signed an accord in which nobody committed to much of anything. No targets, no legal obligations. The Copenhagen Accord, as it is being called, mentions the importance of keeping temperature rises under two degrees Celsius but makes no commitments to do anything about it. Any mention of keeping temperature rises under 1.5 degrees was scrapped.
The US, India, South Africa and China came up with the draft, and the EU, Brazil and Mexico have since jumped aboard. Obama clearly took the lead, and having spent less than a day in Copenhagen, he's on the plane homeward. The G77 group of poor countries are saying the draft was announced before they were consulted.
The most concrete thing in the accord are provisions for $30 billion in funding for climate change adaptation in poor countries by 2012, and another $100 billion a year after 2020. In other words, "we couldn't prevent it, here's some cash to deal with it."
Under the accord, nations will basically decide for themselves what if anything they'll do about climate change. Stephen Harper, who was not involved with the accord, will love it.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo called Copenhagen "a climate crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame."
Lydia Baker, Save the Children's Policy Adviser, remarked, "World leaders have effectively signed a death warrant for many of the world's poorest children. Up to 250,000 children from poor communities could die [due to climate change] before the next major meeting in Mexico at the end of next year."
Mexico has already promised legally binding targets from COP16, and has urged that negotiations start now. But even a year's delay is Russian roulette for the planet.
Assuming this goes through, and it looks highly probable, you could call this failure a crisis of leadership I suppose. But leadership was proudly on display outside the Bella Centre, on the streets among the demonstrators. They are still out there chanting "3-5-0 Survival!"
Leadership was on display among municipalities, small businesses and social entrepreneurs developing innovative carbon reduction strategies and programs throughout the world. It is only the official "leaders" who aren't getting their shit together, and frankly I didn't expect them to.
Change won't come from those who have gained the most from a suicidal civilization. It will come from those with the most to lose.