The U.N. climate conference has ended after two weeks of intense wrangling, accepting a new U.S.-brokered deal that offered billions to help poorer nations adjust to global warming but did little to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
The 193-nation conference — the largest, most important climate meeting in history — was gavelled to a close at 3:26 p.m. (1426 GMT) Saturday, ending a 31-hour negotiating marathon.
Its last major action was considering the Copenhagen Accord, product of closed-door summit bargaining Friday between U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of China and other major developing nations.
Under the accord, richer nations pledge $10 billion a year in climate aid for three years, and set a goal of much more money eventually. The accord also envisions deeper cuts in big polluters’ greenhouse gas emissions, but does not impose limits.
World gives Copenhagen climate deal the thumbs down
The world reacted with disappointment Saturday at a climate deal in Copenhagen that saw the interests of global heavyweights trump the aspirations of environmentalists and poorer nations most at risk from global warming.
“Climate pact hailed and derided” read the front page of the Los Angeles Times, which contrasted US President Barack Obama’s description of the Copenhagen Accord as an “unprecedented breakthrough” with criticisms from Oxfam International, which called it a “historic cop—out.” The agreement, brokered late on Friday by the United States and China and endorsed by Brazil, India, South Africa and the European Union, heeds scientists’ warnings that average global temperatures should not rise by more than 2 degrees centigrade against pre-industrial levels.
But it contains no improved targets on greenhouse gas emissions from rich nations, and does not commit anyone to legally-binding cuts.
“Outright failure to agree anything at all would have been very much worse, but that is about the best thing that can be said” of the accord, read an editorial in the British daily Guardian.
“Brokenhagen” is how one Danish tabloid described the outcome of the 12-day conference in the Danish capital.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had previously urged the about 120 leaders present in Copenhagen to set their divisions aside, called it “an essential beginning.” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, also conceded that it was an imperfect agreement which “will not solve the climate threat.” “It’s a start that needs to be developed,” Reinfeldt said.
Even respected scientists were incensed.
“Of course I am utterly disappointed that nothing substantial has come out of this. In fact it’s a lot less than one might have expected in one’s worst nightmares,” said Mojib Latif of the IFM-GEOMAR Leibniz Institute for Oceanography in the German port city of Kiel.
Arguably the most positive commentary to the deal came from India, with the country’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, praising the Copenhagen compromise as a “good deal” for the developing world.
“This is a good deal not just for India but for the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) alliance. I am happy that this alliance has worked,” Mr. Ramesh was quoted as saying by the PTI news agency.
But opposition politicians in South Africa were less impressed, with Gareth Morgan, spokesman on the environment for the official opposition Democratic Alliance, saying the deal spearheaded by Obama “lacks ambition” and marginalized developing countries.
The Copenhagen Accord struggled to make it through the UN conference’s plenary on Saturday, with the chair resorting to a procedural stratagem to to stop critics from blocking it.
And while Latin American officials protested that they would not be selling their “principles even for 30 billion dollars” in immediate climate funding offered by rich nations to the world’s poorest, Mohammad Nashed, president of the Maldives, urged delegates to “keep the document alive,” saying it offered “many life lines.” Nashed had earlier moved delegates with his passionate plead to save his country, one of many low-lying island nations that risk being submerged by rising sea levels as a result of global warming.