Obama concedes that the last-minute climate deal from Copenhagen isn't legally binding, but calls it a 'meaningful' step toward curbing emissions
By Nicholas Johnston and Jim Efstathiou Jr.
(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Barack Obama called a preliminary climate change agreement with China and several developing countries a "meaningful and unprecedented" step toward slowing global warming.
Obama conceded the agreement would fall short of the expectations of many, and that it will be difficult to turn the accord into a legally binding treaty in the next 12 months. The accord is "historic if incomplete," the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, an environmental group, said in a statement.
"It will not be legally binding, but what it will do is allow for each country to show to the world what they are doing," Obama told reporters in Copenhagen. "There will be a sense on the part of each country that we're in this together and we'll know who is meeting and who's not meeting the mutual obligations that have been set forth."
Negotiators from 193 countries met in the Danish capital for two-weeks of United Nations talks on curbing global warming. Debate stumbled on aid to developing countries facing damage from climate change, pollution-reduction goals and how to verify individual country's pledges to cut harmful emissions.
"The objective of these negotiations of securing the future of the planet definitely wasn't achieved," Melinda Kimble, the U.S. chief negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol and senior vice president at the United Nations Foundation said in an interview in Copenhagen. "It's a limited outcome."
Rich countries will provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations reduce their carbon emissions, according to the text. They will also pay out $30 billion from next year through 2012.
The agreement was reached after President Barack Obama had last-minute talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President, Jacob Zuma in Copenhagen today.
The U.S. will cut CO2 emissions between 14 percent and 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, while Japan will cut emissions 25 percent and Russia may reduce output as much as 25 percent, the agreement said.
Nations should try to keep the global temperature increase before industrialization "below 2 degrees," Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the agreement says. Envoys from the U.S., Europe and China have backed the 2 degrees target.
Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo said he was withholding judgment on the agreement until the details emerge. Guyana, a country with a coastline mostly below sea level, said emissions reductions pledged by developed nations must ensure the 2 degrees target, he said.
"So far from what we've seen there are some good elements enshrined in the document," Jagdeo said in an interview.
With assistance from Kim Chipman and Jeremy Van Loon. Editors: Peter Langan, Todd White