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“Greenwash” at the climate change summit in Copenhagen

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 31 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5616
  1. Michael Wilks, president (2008-9)
  1. 1Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), Brussels B-1040, Belgium
  1. mwilks{at}

    Failure of leadership challenges doctors to lead by example

    Many people who attended the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP15)—which limped to a conclusion on 18 December—hung entry permits from a lanyard that read, “Lead or Go Home.” In the months leading up to Copenhagen, idealism, expectation, and hope competed with a harsher reality. The prospect for a legally binding agreement had long gone, in spite of statements by many world leaders that COP15 represented a last opportunity to avert a critical 2% rise in greenhouse gas emissions. They failed to lead, but before they went home they produced the “Copenhagen Accord”1—a document that stands as a witness to their failure and is the “greenwash” that many observers feared.

    The naming and shaming soon started, but the fact is that despite the intensive preparation, the conference never built a workable negotiating framework. It turned into a poker game in which the United States left its cards at home, the European Union kept half its hand back, China was too timid to be …

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