Non-binding accord rescues climate talks

On the last day of a UN conference, delegates agreed to recognise a US-backed climate accord despite opposition from several nations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged for the agreement to be made legally binding next year.


A UN conference on Saturday rammed through a battle plan against climate change forged by US President Barack Obama and other top leaders, sidelining smaller states which lashed the deal as a  betrayal.

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After toxic exchanges through the night, the summit chair forced through a deal using a procedural tool that effectively dropped all obstacles to the Copenhagen Accord.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the agreement had failed to win global consensus and would disappointment many looking for stronger action against climate change.

But he voiced relief it had not been strangled at birth. "It may not be everything we hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is an essential beginning," he said.

"Many will say that it lacks ambition," Ban said. "Nonetheless, you have achieved much."

Ed Miliband, Britain's climate minister, said it was "an important start".

"This is a very significant moment because it indicates developed and developing countries are both signing up to the notion that they should say what they are going to do in terms of cutting carbon emissions," he told Sky television.

Obama earlier called the accord an "unprecedented breakthrough" after meetings with about two dozen presidents and prime ministers in Copenhagen.

But the deal was mauled when it was put to a full session of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Half a dozen developing countries led the charge, blasting the document as a cosy backdoor deal that violated UN democracy, excluded the poor and doomed the world to catastrophic climate change.

"It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future," said Ian Fry of Tuvalu, a tiny Pacific island whose very existence is threatened by rising seas.

In remarks that sparked immediate condemnation from Western nations, Sudan's outspoken delegate, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, who chairs a bloc of 130 poor nations, said the pact meant "incineration" for Africa and was comparable to the Holocaust.

The agreement was assembled in a frenzied game of climate poker among the leaders of the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and major European countries.

The group had been chosen by conference chair Denmark after it became clear the summit was in danger of failure.

The draft is intended to be the kernel of a strategy to slash the fossil-fuel emissions that trap the Sun's heat and are warming Earth's surface, slowly but ruthlessly damaging our weather systems.

It 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.

It did not spell out a year by which emissions should peak, a demand made by rich countries that was fiercely opposed by China. And pledges were voluntary, without a tough compliance mechanism to ensure nations honoured promises.

It was more detailed on how poor countries should be financially aided to shore up their defences against rising seas, droughts, floods and storms.

Rich countries pledged 30 billion dollars in "fast-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 set an ambitious goal of "jointly mobilising" 100 billion dollars by 2020.

But to make the "fast-track" funds operational, the accord needed plenary approval.

The outcome in Copenhagen will deliver a boost to Obama's efforts to secure legislation in the US Congress that would set his country on a path to lower emissions by around 17 percent by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark.

He described the deal as a "meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough."

"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," he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will host the next climate summit in mid-2010, said she viewed the result "with mixed emotions" but added that "the only alternative to the agreement would have been a failure."

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 rich nations bore primary responsibility for global warming.

Disagreements between the China and United States -- the world's top two carbon polluters -- had been at the core of the divisions.

The Copenhagen Accord was met with dismay by campaigners, who said it was weak, non-binding and sold out the poor.

"Well-meant but half-hearted pledges to protect our planet from dangerous climate change are simply not sufficient to address a crisis that calls for completely new ways of collaboration across rich and poor countries," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

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