- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

COPENHAGEN | The U.N. climate talks ended Saturday after a 31-hour negotiating marathon, with delegates accepting a U.S.-brokered compromise that gives billions of dollars in climate aid to poor nations but does not require the world’s major polluters to make deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Two weeks of wrangling at Copenhagen exposed sharp divisions between rich and poor nations - and even among major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and the United States - on how to fight climate change.

Yet in the end, nearly all 193 nations at the U.N. climate conference agreed to President Obama’s solution, which points toward deeper emissions cuts for rich nations but without mandatory targets that would draw sanctions.

Mr. Obama’s successful 11th-hour bargaining Friday with China, India, Brazil and South Africa - the world’s key developing nations - sets the stage for cooperation between developed and developing nations. But the resulting “Copenhagen Accord” was protested by several nations, which demanded deeper emissions cuts by the industrialized world and felt excluded from the major-nation bargaining process.

“The deal is a triumph of spin over substance. It recognizes 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.

Mr. Obama’s day of hectic diplomacy in the snowy Danish capital, where more than 110 presidents and prime ministers had gathered Friday 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.

That aid aims to help nations build seawalls, cope with unusual droughts and storms, and deal with other impacts from climate change, as well as to develop clean energy sources and reduce their own emissions.

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, nonbinding 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 climate change pollution by specific amounts.

The overall outcome in Copenhagen 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 this year. Instead, it envisions another year of negotiations and leaves myriad details yet to be decided. The next major U.N. climate conference is 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 Saturday, when Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan and Venezuela traded barbs with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who chaired the meeting.

“This conference really has been a roller coaster ride,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said in the final minutes Saturday. It’s “an impressive accord, but not an accord that is legally binding.”

“We have a deal in Copenhagen,” said a visibly relieved U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had made climate change his No. 1 priority when he took office three years ago. Mr. Ban said “this is just the beginning” of a process to craft a binding pact to reduce emissions.

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