After a week of chaotic negotiations, the US, China, Brazil, India and South Africa signed an accord recognising a need to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2oC. But no agreement was reached on how that would be achieved and no commitments were made on carbon emission cuts.
Friends of the Earth called the summit “a complete failure” and Soil Association spokesperson Molly Conisbee told FoodNavigator.com: “We are very disappointed by the lack of ambition in the agreement.”
And it is not just environmental campaigners who feel let down by the outcome of the Copenhagen talks. The CBI, the leading British business lobby, said the accord is light on detail, skates over important and difficult points, and fails to give business enough incentives.
CBI director general Lambert said: “Business needs a clearer sense of direction if it is to make the enormous investments needed to shift towards a low carbon economy.”
Food industry representatives also criticised the failure of the Copenhagen summit to deliver on its promises. Andrew Kuyk, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of sustainability, said the industry had been looking to Copenhagen for a legally binding agreement that would encourage the development of new low carbon technologies.
Kuyk said: “It seems clear that the outcome has fallen significantly short of these expectations and left many questions unanswered. This will inevitably add to the uncertainties for all businesses in what are still very difficult economic and competitive circumstances.”
Food ingredients company Danisco was less overtly critical of the deal in Copenhagen. It called the summit “an important step” but expressed disappointment at the failure to develop a legally binding agreement that would set a price on carbon.
Such a deal could have created market mechanisms to punish businesses that fail to cut emissions, and encourage industry to up investment in sustainability.
Danisco said the absence of such an agreement would not affect its sustainability strategy, but CEO Tom Knutzen did say: “A binding agreement here and now would probably have accelerated developments.”
Dairy UK director general, Jim Begg, said: “It is disappointing that a stronger agreement was not reached in Copenhagen.”
But Begg also underlined how the summit had given the food industry an opportunity to demonstrate its potential in mitigating carbon emissions
He said: “Delegates appeared to accept that good soil and pasture management offered a vital service in locking up carbon.”
Conisbee from the Soil Association said it was disappointing that these subjects were not higher up the Copenhagen agenda in the first place.
The Soil Association claims real progress can be made to reduce emission levels by working to increase stores of soil carbon. The organic food and farming lobby said that each 1 per cent increase in average soil organic carbon levels could in principle reduce atmospheric CO2 by up to 2 per cent.