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Copenhagen raises the stakes - time for civil society to hold our leaders to account

So, at last world leaders have agreed on something. They have agreed, essentially, that they lack the will to really do what it takes to prevent climate crisis.

They can all articulate the challenge that we face. They can all stand up and tell a room what they are doing. But almost no leader of a country of any size, with the brave exception of Brazil's Lula, is willing to stand up and offer to do more than they see as the absolute minimum they think they can get away with.

The superficial last-minute statement agreed late in the night gives us no substantive progress on any of the critical issues. It takes us no further, really, than the statements out of the G8 and G29 in recent months.

What it does do, in the context of the warnings from the UNFCCC and others, is highlight how weak the promises of action from the developed world really are. The targets on the table simply cannot deliver the 2C goal.

Civil society has a big task ahead. Having demonstrated its power and its momentum in the last week, civil society must mobilise to drive our leaders towards meaningful emissions targets and financing commitments if a substantive deal is to be reached in the next 12 months.

The near collapse of these talks, of course, is very largely due to the complete failure of developed world leaders from Kevin Rudd to Barack Obama to understand the depth of global commitment to real action on the climate crisis. They completely misread the commitment of the developing world to the Kyoto Protocol structures and to the serious emissions reduction targets needed to deliver a safe climate.

The rich world demanded compromises from the developing world but offered none itself.

The developing world was never going to be willing to be taken for a ride at Copenhagen. Thiws has been obvious for at least 12 months. But leaders paid no attention to repeated warnings. I made the point last December, when the Rudd Government released its emissions trading white paper, that the woeful 5-15% cuts would undermine global action and that is exactly what has come to pass.

Kevin Rudd should be held personally responsible, as he said he would be, not only for refusing to do what everyone knows is necessary, but also for trying to bully those who wanted real deal into accepting his greenwash.

The critical issues here were always going to be the adequacy of targets and financing put on the table by the developed world, and we needed to see both lifted dramatically if any progress was to be made here.

Instead, the developed world used the conference to undermine their commitments even further through land use change loopholes and moves to undermine the Kyoto framework.

Perhaps the great disappointment of last night was President Obama's speech - although given the USA's history in these talks, it should have been no surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, the world waited for Obama with baited breath, expecting him to deliver a circuit-breaker. Instead he delivered a none-too-subtle attack on China which reportedly made negotiations even more difficult.

We must not forget that the underlying tension here was caused by the continued refusal of the USA to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. If the US joined Kyoto, the two-track process which led to this procedural road-smash would never have been necessary.

There is only one way to rescue this process before next year's conferences in Bonn and Mexico City. And that is for countries like Australia to recognise that their targets do not even match the 2C goal, let alone the stronger 1.5C agreement proposed by the most vulnerable countries in the world, and to lift their sights to what is necessary.

Copenhagen has raised the stakes hugely. It is now up to civil society to hold our leaders to account and ensure that the act at least according to what they say, and preferably even stronger.

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