Two weeks of wrangling at the historic U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen exposed sharp divisions between rich and poor nations — and even among major greenhouse-gas emitters like China and the United States — on how to fight global warming. Yet in the end, nearly all 193 nations at the conference agreed to a deal brokered by President Barack Obama that points toward deeper emissions cuts for rich nations, but without mandatory limits.
Mr. Obama’s successful 11th-hour bargaining on Friday with China, India, Brazil and South Africa — the world’s key developing nations — sets the stage for future cooperation between developed and developing nations.
But the resulting “Copenhagen Accord” was protested by several nations that demanded deeper emissions cuts by the industrialised world and felt excluded from the major-nation bargaining process.
Mr. Obama’s day of hectic diplomacy in the snowy Danish capital, where more than 110 Presidents and Premiers had gathered for a rare climate summit, produced a document promising that rich nations would provide $30 billion in emergency climate aid to poor nations in the next three years, and set a goal of eventually channeling $100 billion a year to them by 2020.
The accord includes a method for verifying each nation’s reductions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases — a key demand by Washington, because China has resisted international efforts to monitor its voluntary actions.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — rejected by the U.S. — 37 industrial nations were already modestly cutting back on their emissions of greenhouse gases.
Under the new, non-binding agreement, those richer nations, including the U.S., are to list their individual emissions targets, and developing countries must list what actions they will take to reduce the growth in their global warming pollution by specific amounts.
“This conference really has been a roller coaster ride in many ways,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said in the final minutes on Saturday. It’s “an impressive accord, but not an accord that is legally binding.”
Others were much harsher.
‘Triumph of spin’
“The deal is a triumph of spin over substance. It recognises the need to keep warming below 2 degrees but does not commit to do so. It kicks back the big decisions on emissions cuts and fudges the issue of climate cash,” said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.
The Copenhagen conference also failed to act on one issue many thought was near success here: A plan to protect the world’s rain forests, vital to a healthy climate, by paying some 40 poor tropical countries to protect their woodlands.
Deforestation for logging, cattle grazing and crops has made Indonesia and Brazil the world’s third and fourth-biggest carbon emitters, after China and the U.S.
The overall outcome was a significant disappointment to those who had hoped Mr. Obama could put new life into the flagging prospects for some kind of legally binding agreement. Instead, it envisions another year of negotiations and leaves myriad details yet to be decided. The next major U.N. climate conference is planned for a year from now in Mexico City.
The Copenhagen Accord, initiated by five of the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas polluters, was accepted only after it bogged down in an all-night debate early on Saturday, when Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan and Venezuela traded barbs with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who chaired the meeting.
‘Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, a spokesman for the world’s developing nations, said the deal’s temperature goal would condemn Africans to widespread deaths from global warming, comparing it to Nazis sending “6 million people into furnaces” in the Holocaust.
That language drew rebukes from other delegates, however, and the African Union backed the deal.
The document says carbon emissions should be reduced enough to keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) since preindustrial times. But average temperatures already have risen 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) since then.
The nations most vulnerable to climate change, including low-lying islands, believe that limit is already too high.
Because the deal envisions emission cuts no bigger than what countries pledged coming into Copenhagen, U.S. experts say the world’s temperature is already on track to increase by 3.9 degrees C (7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels, said team leader John Sterman of MIT.
After a break around dawn on Saturday, Mr. Rasmussen was replaced with a new conference president, Philip Weech of the Bahamas, who gaveled in a compromise decision to “take note” of the agreement, instead of formally approving it.
Disputes between rich and poor countries and between the world’s biggest carbon polluters — China and the U.S. — dominated the two-week Copenhagen conference. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and staged demonstrations, even within the stylish high-tech conference centre, to demand action to cool an overheating planet.
It was high drama on Friday night with Mr. Obama making a surprise entry into a room where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders from China, Brazil and South Africa were in a huddle.
Mr. Obama was apparently hoping to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao alone and after that hold separate meetings with Dr. Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma. But, the four leaders wanted to meet him together, rather than in separate sessions, an official privy to negotiations said.
Mr. Obama and his team appeared to be taken aback, but went ahead to meet them together.
“Can I join you now? Are you ready to talk to me or do you need more time? I can go back and come again,” said Mr. Obama to the leaders of the four countries as he walked into the room with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and aides.
He was told by leaders that he was welcome to join them.
What followed was an intense discussion between Mr. Obama and the leaders of the four emerging economies with the result being finalisation of a broad agreement on which they could work.
‘A major step forward’
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama called the deal “a major step forward.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a leading proponent of strong action to confront global warming, gave the Copenhagen Accord only grudging acceptance, saying she had “mixed feelings” about it.
Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, called the U.S.-led climate deal “a stepping stone on the path to a new climate treaty. The next stone must be a bill enacted by the U.S. Congress.”
Keywords: U.N. climate talks, Copenhagen, gas emitters, China, India, U.S., President Barack Obama, global warming, climate change, Copenhagen Accord, climate summit, Kyoto Protocol, Yukio Hatoyama, Environmental Defense Fund