CLIMATE DEAL MEETS FURIOUS RECEPTION
By Richard Ingham
December 18, 2009
COPENHAGEN -- Fury erupted Saturday at a gruelling summit in Copenhagen on rolling back climate change as poor nations took to task a draft deal whose supporters even said was less than they sought.
U.S. President Barack Obama said an "unprecedented breakthrough" had been reached among day-long meetings involving about two dozen presidents and prime ministers gathered in Copenhagen.
Obama admitted the so-called Copenhagen Accord did not go far enough, but characterized its provisions as "meaningful," arguing they provided a tool for ratcheting up action on greenhouse gases.
But hours after Obama and other key leaders flew home, delegates from 194 nations gathered to approve the text and met a raucous response from several developing states that resented not being part of the closed-door discussions.
Venezuela's representative Claudia Salerno Caldera held up what appeared to be a bloody palm, saying that she had cut her hand in an effort to gain the attention of conference chair Denmark.
"You are going to endorse this coup d'etat against the United Nations," she said as an all-night session approached dawn on its 13th day.
Ian Fry of Tuvalu, a tiny Pacific island whose very existence is threatened by climate change, said the agreement amounted to Biblical betrayal and vowed to defeat it.
"It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future," he said to applause in the chamber.
The agreement set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important stepping stones -- global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 -- for getting there.
Nor did it spell out a year by which emissions should peak, a demand made by rich countries that was fiercely opposed by China, or insist on tough compliance mechanisms to ensure nations honored their promises.
Somewhat more successfully, it spelt out some details for how poor countries should be financially aided to shore up their defenses against rising seas, water stress, floods, and storms.
Rich countries pledged to commit 30 billion dollars in "short-track" finance for the 2010-2012 period, including 11 billion from Japan, 10.6 billion from the European Union, and 3.6 billion dollars from the United States.
They also set a goal of "jointly mobilizing" 100 billion dollars by 2020, although details were sketchy.
The U.S. president said before leaving Copenhagen that what had been billed as one the most important summits since World War II would be the starting gun for a much stronger effort to combat global warming.
"Today we have made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen," Obama told reporters.
"For the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change."
He added: "Going forward, we are going to have to build on the momentum we have achieved here in Copenhagen. We have come a long way but we have much further to go."
"The agreement is not perfect but it's the best one possible," Sarkozy told reporters, adding that another global warming summit would be hosted by Germany in mid-2010.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted she viewed the result "with mixed emotions" but added that "the only alternative to the agreement would have been a failure."
The deal was hammered out in talks between Obama and the leaders of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa as well as key European countries, diplomats said.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that talks had been close to collapse on seven occasions, but were ultimately saved by sharp deal-making in which Obama played a lead role.
China had bristled at anything called "verification" of its plan to cut the intensity of its carbon emissions, seeing it as an infringement of sovereignty and saying that rich nations bore primary responsibility for global warming.
Disagreements between the China and United States -- the world's No. 1 and 2 carbon polluters -- had been at the core of the divisions holding up a deal.
The emergence of a deal came at the end of a day in which several draft agreements were knocked back, with leaders themselves taking over the task of redrafting the exact wording of three pages of text.
Different versions of the document showed the leaders particularly split over whether to fix a firm date for finalizing a legally binding treaty in 2010, and a commitment to slashing global carbon emissions in half by 2050.
The agreement was met with dismay by campaigners, who said it was weak, non-binding, and sold out the poor.
"By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world's poorest people to hunger, suffering, and loss of life as climate change accelerates," said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, calling the outcome "an abject failure."
"The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations."
Antonio Hill of Oxfam charged: "It can't even be called a deal. It has no deadline for an agreement in 2010 and there is no certainty that it will be a legally binding agreement."
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