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Copenhagen: Not Such A Flop After All?

The Chicago Tribune's Jim Tankersley has a piece noting that the conventional wisdom on Copenhagen has been quietly shifting. In the immediate aftermath, nearly everyone labeled the accord a big fat failure. But in the months since, various countries have been racking up pledges to cut emissions and they've made a fair bit of headway:

The conference was "no failure" and produced "the highest number of new government initiatives ever recorded ... in a four-month period," Deutsche Bank, which tracks climate policy as part of its research on clean energy investments, declared in a March report.

And here are some metrics:

Under what he called "reasonable" economic and technical assumptions of what each country could expect to keep doing, [IIE's Trevor] Houser concluded that the Copenhagen commitments would give the world a 50 percent chance of holding warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, the level many scientists say is needed to avert catastrophic warming.

The Center for American Progress estimated the pledges would take the world two-thirds of the way to "climate safety."

Here's an earlier post I did on Houser's work. Note that the big wild card here is still the United States. It remains wildly unclear what sort of emission cuts Congress is going to agree to this year—or in the years that follow. In the next few weeks, Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are supposed to unveil a climate bill in the Senate that would (ostensibly) put the United States on track to cut greenhouse gas emisisons 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. That would fulfill the administration's Copenhagen pledge, but it'd still be far below what many scientists consider necessary to avoid a dangerous 2°C rise in temperatures. What's more, it's not even clear that bill can pass—as Kate Sheppard reports today, the Senate, which is always ridiculously sluggish, may not even have enough time left this year to pass big climate legislation.