COPENHAGEN — The "Copenhagen Accord" is terribly weak.
Not just "weaker than it needs to be to prevent climate catastrophe." We knew it would be that, but we hoped to emerge with a serious framework for real solutions.
Formally, diplomatically, legally, we didn't get that. This truth is stark but indispensable. We shouldn't spin away from it.
The accord will include some positive developments: serious engagement by the U.S. and China, progress toward better accounting and verification, and real movement on climate finance — a critical issue that goes to the moral heart of the impasse. But it lacks legal and scientific integrity. It is not a solid foundation for concerted global action at the scale of the problem. It's not even in the ballpark.
But if all you read is the formal text, you're missing most of what happened in (and because of) Copenhagen. "Hopenhagen" is a lot more than the accord. It was a massive convergence of public will. Powerful campaign networks and strategic north/south ties were forged. Millions engaged. The huge, diverse, connected mobilization of global civil society, and particularly young people, is growing into an irresistible force. They are on fire.
It was an unprecedented gathering of world leaders to forge climate solutions. More than 120 heads of state convened to negotiate a pact to save the world. They worked hard at it and came up well short this time. But "Hopenhagen" marks a new level of commitment to the cause.
It was a spectacular showcase for the emergence of the clean economies and healthy communities of the future. From the electric cars shuttling delegates to the wind turbine towering over the Bella Center to the bicycling, transit-hopping masses of Copenhagen, a brighter future is being born. Business leaders are ready. Investors are ready. Local governments are ready. People are ready, hungry, itching.
It was a galvanizing moment for Americans' growing commitment to solutions, while it laid bare the failure of our broken politics to honor that commitment. It's a sobering measure of how deep a hole we've dug that both these statements are true: The U.S. offered much more than ever before. And it must deliver still an order of magnitude more if we are to have a real shot at averting catastrophic climate disruption.
President Obama wouldn't go further because he's already at the ceiling of the Senate's appetite. He needs to puncture that ceiling with much stronger leadership, not tip-toe under it. And the Senate needs to MOVE.
For many, it was a moral awakening as 112 nations — the most vulnerable ones, the ones least able to afford intellectual dishonesty about the climate crisis — made a valiant stand for science and justice. Their moral authority grew. I hope what they did here will stir humanity's conscience as deeply as it did mine.
The accord is weak. But the Hopenhagen imperative is strong and growing. People are riled and connected, a clean economy is emerging, the costs of fossil fuel dependence are growing unbearable, and the climate disaster bears down on us. The drivers will only grow stronger until we do something much, much different.
On we go.
* K.C. Golden is the policy director for Climate Solutions, which has offices in Seattle, Olympia and Portland. This is his final dispatch from Copenhagen.