Monash University Law Review vol:36 issue:1 pages:278-303
In December 2009, State Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change' ('UNFCCC') and the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ('Kyoto Protocol') met in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the latest annual Conference of Parties ('COP15/ CMP5'). The centrepiece on the negotiation table was supposed to be a draft international instrument, intended to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol after it expires, in terms of its current international commitments, at the end of 2012. Failing to agree on a comprehensive new climate change treaty raises a serious question mark over the likely effectiveness of climate change strategies and greenhouse gas mitigation and abatement measures. Restraining future increases in global temperature to levels as or below the widely touted two degrees target' is far from guaranteed? This is particularly concerning for Australia and its neighbours, especially island states. In addition to the lack of international progress, recent attempts to introduce climate change legislation were thwarted in late 2009.8 This is in stark contrast to many other developed states. In the United Kingdom and other member states of the European Union, steps forward are well underway with the introduction of domestic climate change laws and related developments actively moving these economies towards a low carbon future. Australia's lack of comprehensive action on climate change places it at a distinct disadvantage vis-a-vis other developed nations. As recently noted, 'Australia needs a comprehensive set of national climate laws; otherwise there is a very real risk we will be left behind'. Within this context, this paper reviews the outcomes of the United Nations ('UN') climate negotiations in Copenhagen 2009. By way of background, Part II of this paper commences with an overview of climate change, energy markets, and the international legal framework underpinning the ongoing annual climate change discussions by State Parties to the UNFCCC. Key aspects of the international climate change debate and outcomes of the COP15/CMP5 are examined in Part III, including the Copenhagen Accord and other relevant decisions of State Parties to the COP15/CMP5. While it is not possible to canvass all aspects of the ongoing climate change contretemps between State Parties, the major points of contention between developed and developing nations are set out in this part. The final part of this paper reviews Australia's position vis-a-vis climate change and rising national greenhouse gas emissions.