Unwilling to go empty-handed, U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delayed their departures last night by several hours, hammering out a deal which the summit decided to 'take note' of.

The climate change conference failed to adopt a binding treaty on emission cuts, but as a face-saver decided to “take note” of a U.S.-brokered deal with India and three other emerging economies which was rejected by several poor nations.

The dramatic twists and turns in the 12-day conference to combat global warming came after an extended all night plenary session in which an overwhelming number of nations comprising the G-77 and the poor bloc rejected the deal between the U.S. and BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

Non-binding political deal

Unwilling to go empty-handed, U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delayed their departures last night by several hours. Mr. Obama surprisingly walked into a meeting of the BASIC leaders and hammered out a legally non-binding political deal.

It promised to limit gas emissions to 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels and peaking of global and national emissions at the earlies, among other things.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmuessen, who chaired the UN-sponsored meeting where decisions are taken by consensus, frankly acknowledged the lack of it and the inability to get the deal adopted.

But after a break in the plenary session with a number of countries supporting the accord, the Conference chair announced the decision to “take note” of the agreement instead of formally approving it.

"We have a deal"

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, “We have a deal which is just the beginning of a process to evolve a binding pact on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.”

He said the Copenhagen agreement “will have an immediate operational effect“.

The deal was brought to the plenary as a draft document but was strongly opposed by Sudan, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and some other countries on the ground it lacked specific targets for reducing carbon emissions. They contended that it was one-sided and suicidal.

Several countries including Japan, Germany and Britain besides Maldives supported the deal.

On Saturday, capping days of frenetic and sometimes dramatic discussions, Mr. Rasmuessen said, “If we strictly stick to the principle of consensus, this (the U.S.—BASIC accord) cannot be adopted. I really regret it for this reason that we cannot adopt this document. It is true that this document cannot be put into operational effect. It is true but it is a reality,” he said.

But later he said Denmark can be proud of its efforts to secure an agreement.

The 3-page U.S.-BASIC accord, taken as a final conference draft, contained elements like limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, factoring in overriding priorities of poverty for developing nations.

Emission targets by Feb. 2010

The agreement calls on industrialised nations to set their emission targets by February, 2010 and also asks the developing countries to do the same.

In the contentious area of Monitoring, Verification and Reporting (MVR), it provides that unsupported actions could be subject to assessment only by domestic institutions but adds a new provision for international consultations and analysis without impinging on national sovereignty.

On the finance side, it provides $100 billion for long-term funding for developing countries and $30 billion for short-term, which would go to the poorest and most vulnerable.

The accord requires industrial countries to list their individual targets and developing countries to outline the actions they are willing to take to cut emissions by specific amounts.

Unacceptable to Africa, Latin America

Many of the African and Latin American countries attacked the document, saying it was not acceptable.

Sudanese delegate Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, who chaired the Group of 77 and the bloc of 130 poor nations, compared it to Holocaust. “It is a solution based on values, the very opinion that funnelled six million people in Europe into furnaces,” he said.

Calling the draft deal the worst in the history of climate negotiations, he said that it asked Africa to sign a “suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.

The tense negotiations at one stage saw Britain, France and Australia expressing reservations on the Indian position relating to emission cuts, mitigation targets and finance.

I tried my best: Jairam Ramesh

“I think in the meeting that we had, unfortunately the French President (Nicolas Sarkozy) and British Prime Minister (Gordon Brown), many of them did not seem appreciative of India’s point of view. Either they were not properly briefed or they chose deliberately to be oblivious of what we are doing,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said after the meeting.

“I tried my best; a couple of moments there were some sharp exchanges between President Sarkozy and I. But I must say Chancellor (Angela) Merkel (of Germany) was very supportive of India, President Obama was very supportive of India.”

But, the Indian side did have some problem with Mr. Brown and Mr. Sarkozy and also twice with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr. Ramesh said.

However, he said, after the meeting these leaders stated that they respected Mr. Singh and knew what a “great Prime Minister he is and what good job India is doing.”

Unilateral commitments not binding

During the meeting, Mr. Singh said that there was no question of making India’s unilateral commitments internationally legally binding.

“We will reflect them in an international agreement in a suitable way but we are not going to take any internationally legally binding commitments. That is simply not on the cards,” Mr. Ramesh quoted Singh as saying, adding that Mr. Obama appreciated Mr. Singh’s statement.

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