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One small step forward in Copenhagen

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The Copenhagen Accord is a bit of an orphan-child. No one is too proud or happy with the three page outcome that includes a yet to be determined number of countries in a non-binding agreement to take a yet to be determined amount of action to reduce a yet-to-be-determined amount of carbon emissions.

Many NGOs are using strong language to dis this vague and far from confidence-building finale to such a momentous event. And for good reasons.

But like all problem children, there are things to love about it. Here is the most unacknowledged aspect of the Accord in my mind. It shows us the money. It may not be enough, and developed countries may dick around with the $30 billion in fast start money offered up for 2010 to 2012 by promising it and then recycling money out of other development programs.

This is certainly one place where civil society needs to watch like a hawk. How well that fast start money flows will be a key to really evaluating the worth of the Copenhagen. That money is supposed to start flowing in the next few months. Action will speak louder than the words on the page. This is where the movement has to watch President Obama to show his sincerity about making his promises worth the paper they are written on. Until then, I would hold my fire as far as Obama is concerned. For lots of reasons that will have to wait for another post.

But one really important reason is that he showed us the big money involved post 2012 that is now promised to reach $100 billion yearly by 2020. That is big and it will trigger profound changes creating new means to collect and disperse needed global public funding to be used for transformation toward a low carbon world in the developing and developed world.

It is no surprise that we didn't get our ambitious, fair and binding agreement. Let's admit it. We were so far from any deal going in that it is even surprising that there is an Accord. The political problem of the U.S. Senate was clear. But the U.S. was not the only issue. Nor was China. There are little countries like Canada that wouldn't agree to stuff. And there are 190 others that have positions that are mutually excluding in various areas. And in the U.N. process, every country has to agree.

We are just at the beginning and there is a huge amount to do. This was a baby step. Many are saying that we don't have time for baby steps and they are right. But the COP level is not the only game-changer around. There are many more amazing things happening around climate change than just what discordant national governments can agree to. National governments, provinces, states and cities are in the act. Scientists, farmers, indigenous people, innovators and businesses are on the move; Copenhagen affirmed that creating a low carbon world is happening everywhere and engaging the best and the brightest. The experience of all that intelligence and innovation in Copenhagen this week was overwhelming. I don't think the world will ever forget what happened here.

Let's face it. Binding targets are not all they are made out to be -- not as yet, anyway. It is action on reducing emissions that we need on every level. It is a big job and civil society needs to be in there making it happen. And it's not going to be finished anytime soon.

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