Copenhagen Accord
5 min readJun 14, 2022


Copenhagen climate change
Copenhagen (Photo: Unsplash)

The Copenhagen Accord, also known as the Copenhagen Climate Agreement, was reached at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The agreement builds upon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and sets new goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions for developed countries. The accord declares the “immediate establishment of a mechanism…to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries” to support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to enhance forest sinks.The agreement also establishes a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, which will help developing countries transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to climate change.

The goals set forth in the Copenhagen Accord are not legally binding, but are instead voluntary commitments that nations can choose to adopt. Nevertheless, the Accord is considered an important step forward in the international effort to address climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that was adopted in 1997 at the Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Protocol sets binding emissions targets for developed countries, known as Annex I Parties, for the period 2008–2012.

The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ended in 2012, and was followed by a second commitment period from 2013–2020. However, the United States — which ratified the Protocol in 2005 — did not ratify the second commitment period, and thus is not bound by its emissions targets.

Outcome of the Copenhagen Accord

The primary goal of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was to reach a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which would commit all countries to binding emissions targets. However, negotiations at the conference proved to be highly contentious, and no such agreement was reached.

Instead, the conference resulted in the adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding agreement that sets voluntary emissions targets for developed countries. The Accord also establishes the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, which is designed to help developing countries transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to climate change.

Despite its non-binding nature, the Copenhagen Accord is considered an important step forward in the international effort to address climate change. The agreement represents the first time that all major emitting countries have committed to taking action on climate change, and it sets a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The Accord has also been credited with generating new momentum for international climate finance. In particular, the agreement commits developed countries to providing $100 billion per year to developing countries as of 2020 to help them transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to climate change.

Criticism of the Copenhagen Accord

Denmark climate change
Danish Shoreline (Photo: Unsplash)

The Copenhagen Accord has been criticized by some for its lack of binding emissions targets and its reliance on voluntary commitments. Critics argue that the Accord fails to address the most important issue of climate change — the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and that it does not do enough to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Others argue that the Accord is an important first step in the international effort to address climate change, and that its voluntary nature makes it more likely to be adopted by all major emitting countries.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gases are atmospheric gases that trap heat from the sun, causing the Earth’s atmosphere to warm. Greenhouse gas emissions come from a variety of sources, including the combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation, and agricultural activities.

Carbon Sinks

A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that stores carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Trees and other vegetation are natural carbon sinks, as they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Forested areas can also be managed to serve as carbon sinks, through activities such as reforestation and avoided deforestation.

Forest Sinks

Forest sinks are forested areas that are managed to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forest management activities such as reforestation and avoided deforestation can help to create forest sinks. This was a major focal point of the Copenhagen Accord, which declared the “immediate establishment of a mechanism to support forest sinks.

Annex I Parties

The Kyoto Protocol defines Annex I Parties as developed countries that are bound by the treaty’s emissions targets. Annex I Parties include all members of the European Union, as well as Canada, Iceland, Japan, Monaco, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States.

Non-Annex I Parties

Non-Annex I Parties are developing countries that are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions targets. Non-Annex I Parties include China, India, and Brazil.

Copenhagen Green Climate Fund

Copenhagen and climate change
View of Copenhagen (Photo: Unsplash)

The Copenhagen Green Climate Fund is a multilateral fund that was established by the Copenhagen Accord to help developing countries transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to climate change. The Fund is designed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020, with $30 billion of that coming from developed countries.

Carbon Credits

A carbon credit is a permit that allows a company or individual to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases. Carbon credits can be bought and sold in order to help companies and countries meet their emissions targets. Carbon offsets on the other hand are reductions in emissions that are made in one place in order to offset emissions made elsewhere.

Emissions Trading

Emissions trading, also known as cap-and-trade system, is a system in which companies are given emissions allowances that they can trade with other companies within a carbon marke t. Emissions trading creates a market for greenhouse gas emissions, and provides an incentive for companies to reduce their emissions.

Originally published at on June 14, 2022.



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