The Copenhagen Accord 

CAPP's commentary and preliminary assessment of The Copenhagen Accord announced December 19, 2009

December 21, 2009


The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended December 19, 2009 with a political agreement called ‘The Copenhagen Accord,’ which avoids the impasse of trying to negotiate legally binding emission targets for all major economies. In effect, the Accord is a commitment by all major emitting countries to take action to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system -- the main goal from the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

By end January 2010 countries are to indicate commitments to nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Industrialized countries will commit to implement individually or jointly quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 as reductions from their own choice of base-years. The major emerging economies are to list the actions they will take. The commitments under the accord will be reviewed by 2015 to assess progress toward the long-term goal to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5oC.

The UNFCCC process will continue with its two tracks of extension of the Kyoto Protocol and Long-term Cooperative Action set up in earlier COP meetings in Montreal and Bali. However, the commitments under this Accord are not tied to progress under those processes. This raises questions about the future of the Kyoto Protocol and, more generally, the significance of the UNFCCC process to the major economies’ actions on GHGs beyond extending the CDM mechanism in some form beyond 2012. The way in which it was achieved and its focus on all major emitters suggest the Copenhagen Accord has reshaped climate change negotiations going forward to be more closely tied to the G20 process than to the 194-country UN process.

Industrial countries have pledged $30 billion U.S. in funding for mitigation and adaptation efforts for developing countries over the next three years. For long-term financing, developed countries agreed to support a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion U.S. a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.

The Copenhagen Accord also makes technology development a priority, without getting tied down by intellectual property arguments. To enhance action on development and transfer of technology in support of action on adaptation and mitigation, a Technology Mechanism is be established This is to be guided by a country-driven approach and to be based on national circumstances and priorities.

Overall, the negotiations demonstrated how difficult and expensive pursuit of the climate change goals will be going forward. The Accord’s focus on what countries are willing and able to do, along with recognition of the importance of technology development, appears to be a significant improvement. However, the path forward internationally, in the U.S. and domestically in Canada is not clear. Thus it would be at best premature to conclude that we are now on a track to a balanced approach to climate change policy.

As indicated by the UN press release, attempts to continue the Kyoto Protocol approach will be pursued at the next annual UN Climate Change Conference near the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, scheduled May 31 to June 11. Canada will no doubt face continuing pressure to take on a target unrelated to its national circumstances (i.e., growing energy supplier to the U.S., population increase of 20% and GDP increase of 60% since 1990).

The Accord and UN press release can be found at the UNFCCC website:

CAPP Key Messages:

The following Key Messages are based on our preliminary assessment of the Copenhagen Accord. The path forward for climate policy internationally, in North America and in Canada remains very uncertain and will certainly continue to evolve in the post-Copenhagen period.

Copenhagen Accord

  1. The Copenhagen Accord is a further step on a longer environmental, economic and political journey.
  2. All considered, the Accord is an effective step in terms of reshaping the climate change policy dialogue and direction in key areas:
    • First, it’s moved from a focus on targets determined globally to actions and targets that reflect particular national circumstances.
      • For Canada, this is important because we’re a country with largely a resource-based economy that produces more energy than we use, exporting significant amounts ($126 billion in 2008, accounting for 26% of all Canadian exports).
      • Canada’s stated target of a 20% reduction from 2006 by 2020 is very ambitious given our economic dependence on resources.
    • Second, it brings major developing countries to the table as part of the solution.
      • Economies, and therefore energy use and GHG emissions, are growing at a rapid rate in the developing world. We all must do our share to address GHG emissions, so it’s critical that these countries be part of the agreement going forward.
      • The largest global emitters are China and the U.S., with Canada comprising only 2% of global GHG emissions.
    • Third, it explicitly recognizes that technology plays a crucial role in achieving longer term goals for global GHG reductions, and that the approach to technology policy should also be based on national circumstances and priorities.
      • Technology enables us to deliver more energy with fewer GHG emissions per unit of energy produced.
      • Technology investment is a key lever for improvement in Canadian GHG emissions performance.
  3. The Copenhagen Accord appears to provide a framework that is directionally supportive of the principles that CAPP members see as necessary for effective Canadian climate policy:
    • Balance: delivers economic growth, environmental protection as well as secure and reliable energy.
    • Technology: stimulates investment in technologies for reducing GHGs in Canada.
    • Predictability & Stability: to support long term capital investments in our sector and to create Canadian jobs.
    • Compatibility: with other countries, particularly the United States, our largest trading partner, to maintain Canada’s competitiveness.
    • Harmonization: across jurisdictions within Canada, to an extent that is reasonable and practical.
  4. CAPP will continue to engage constructively in the broader dialogue regarding Canadian climate change policy in the post-Copenhagen period.

Oil Sands

  1. Oil sands account for 1/1000th of global GHG emissions and were not the focus of the world leaders in Copenhagen.
  2. In Canada, 95% of GHG emissions come from sources other than oil sands.
  3. Effective Canadian climate policy can only be made by looking at the oil sands in the broader context of our nation’s energy needs and economic interests.
  4. Clearly the challenge will be to develop Canada’s national climate policy and action plan in a manner that finds the right balance between environmental performance, economic growth and ensuring that we have a secure and reliable energy supply.
  5. The oil and gas industry remains focused on improving GHG emissions performance, largely through the application of innovative technology (for example, Oil sands GHG emissions have declined 26 per cent per barrel from 1990 to 2010).


CAPP on Climate

CAPP on Climate

The Canadian oil and gas industry fully recognizes that it must continue to do its part in addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Read about CAPP on Climate


The Accord and UN press release on the UNFCCC website:

Emission Trends

Associated Press Interactive world map showing CO2 by nation and by population: