Disillusionment after the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change

Lara Lázaro and Alicia Sorroza
The Spanish government praised the technical advancements of the working groups at Copenhagen. It was also satisfied about having brought the largest polluters on board (albeit in the in extremis meeting). It nevertheless realised that international environmental agreements are inevitably slow and bound by the law of the least ambitious programme. In sum, there was an undisguised feeling of failure among government officials. This was reflected in the declarations made by the Spanish Office of Climate Change (OECC) at various seminars and workshops in the aftermath of the COP15. Too much to achieve in a short period of time, with misunderstandings and lack of trust among parties, could summarise the government’s analysis of Copenhagen. The Spanish Presidency of the EU was expected to further the joint efforts of the European Union in the future achievement of a legally binding agreement.[1]
The main opposition party – the conservative Popular Party (PP) – believes that the agreement reached shows a low level of ambition and scant progress. They consider that there is an urgent need to reach a global agreement in order to ensure all parties and firms compete under the same conditions in a low carbon economy, thus avoiding relocation of national industry.[2] According to the leftist party Izquierda Unida, the Copenhagen international summit was an absolute failure.[3]
The Spanish Trade Unions (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT and Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CCOO) have expressed their disappointment with the lack of a binding agreement at the Copenhagen summit. It is considered an absolute failure as scientific mandates (to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 25 percent and 40 percent in relation to 1990 levels by 2020) have not been enshrined into the Copenhagen Accord. Current figures fall short of the above recommendations and amount to 15 percent of reductions. Copenhagen has been a missed opportunity in terms of the ‘millions’ of green collar jobs that could have been created. They also criticised the ‘outrageous’ exclusion of civil society in this historical meeting. For them, there was an unprecedented breach of historical participation of civil society in climate change negotiations. Future agreements should include not only civil society, but also all countries.[4]
The main Spanish non-governmental organisations highlighted the historical opportunity missed in Conpenhagen. According to Intermon Oxfam, the international leaders, subservient to their own (economic) interests, forgot about the ‘common good’. The Copenhagen Accord was a useless agreement that served the media-frenzy desire of offering headlines, but failed to ensure that lives are saved. This is especially worrisome for the poorest and most vulnerable. Copenhagen’s failure and the possibility of facing the catastrophic consequences of climate change should be a wake-up call for policy-makers and political leaders alike.[5]
Ecologistas en Accion, a relevant non-profit ecological organisation, also believes that the lack of public participation and the exclusion of the ‘global South’ must be condemned. It stressed its disappointment with the non-existent long-term commitments to ensure binding GHG reductions. There is a long-standing and urgent need for decisive global climate agreements post 2012. The limited amount of natural resources, as sources or as sinks, has to be included in the parlance of international environmental agreements in an effective way if the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided.[6] Greenpeace in Spain declared that Copenhagen was only a ‘weak political declaration’ that implicitly leads to increases in temperature above 2ºC. The agreement can be seen, at best, as a step along the road to a legally binding agreement. Transfers agreed should be effectively made if engagement of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is to be ensured.[7]
According to the Twenty-Third Wave of the Barometer of the Elcano Royal Institute (March 2010), Spanish public opinion is worried about the threat of climate change and rose to the level of other issues. A total of 90 percent consider it an important threat and half of these people feel it is a very important threat. Within this context, it should come as no surprise that one out of every two Spaniards is disappointed by the results of the climate change summit in Copenhagen. Only 1 percent assessed the results of the climate change summit as very good, 27 percent as good, 28 percent as bad, 13 percent as very bad, 22 percent gave no answer.

[1] More information is available at: (last access: 29 July 2010);
(last access: 29 July 2010).

[2] Available at: (last access: 29 July 2010).

[3]Available at:  http://izquierda-unida.es/node/6811(last access: 29 July 2010).

[4]Available at: (last access: 29 July 2010).

[5] Intermon Oxfam: “Un clima de vergüenza: volved a la mesa. Análisis inicial de la reunión sobre el clima en Copenhague”, 21/XII/2009, available at: (last access: 29 July 2010).

[6] Available at: (last access: 29 July 2010);
(last access: 29 July 2010).

[7] Available at: (last access: 29 July 2010).