COPENHAGEN — A two-week climate change conference billed as the most important postwar international gathering and perhaps the world’s last chance to halt global warming and irreversible climate change concluded Saturday morning with a vague, nonlegal agreement that few delegates enthusiastically supported.
“In the course of adopting this decision, I know both developed and developing countries cannot all be happy. But through the adoption of the ‘Copenhagen Accord,’ you will be able to get everything you need, even though not all of us have achieved all you wanted,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told reporters late Saturday morning as the conference was ending.
The accord that was finally adopted by consensus after an all-night debate and only after its initial rejection by the chair of the conference is a compromise political agreement drawn up by the United States and the U.K. and endorsed late Thursday by the major developing economies of China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
Nations that adopt the accord, which goes into effect immediately, agree to work to ensure an increase in global temperature over the coming years does not exceed 2 degrees, the level above which climatologists warn of irreversible climate change due to global warming.
Over 100 delegations — many from small islands in the Pacific that are on the front line of global warming and face being submerged due to rising sea levels — had called for limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. African nations, meanwhile, had warned that scientific studies concluded a 2 degree average rise worldwide translated in an average rise of 3 degrees or more for Africa.
“It has been extremely difficult. Sometimes there were quite heated, quite dramatic discussions. I hope our heated discussions have not increased global warming,” Ban said.
Included in the accord is a $30 billion short-term financing agreement for developing countries to mitigate climate change in the short run, and up to $100 billion annually by 2020 for long-term climate change adaptation. However, details of how the funding will work remain vague and U.N. officials say they will have to be worked out next year.
“In the course of adopting this decision, I know that many delegations have expressed concerns and sometimes anger and frustration for the lack of transparency. We started in good faith, as transparent as possible. This document was a bottom-up process,” Ban said.
Developing nations and environmental nongovernment organizations were critical of the new deal, while few leaders in developed countries, especially in Europe, expressed enthusiasm.
European Union leaders said they were only supporting the accord because there was no better deal to be had at Copenhagen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had “mixed feelings” over the agreement and no leader of a developed country, except for U.S. President Barack Obama, offered praise.
Environmental NGOs that had pushed for a tough agreement with specific reduction targets for developed nations were nearly unanimous in labeling the conference a failure of epic proportions.
“The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame. Climate science says we have only a few years left to halt the rise in emissions before making the kind of rapid reductions that would give us the best chance of avoiding dangerous climate change,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naido.
“Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Justice has not been done. We are disgusted by the failure of rich countries to commit to the emissions reductions they know are needed, especially the U.S.,” said Friends of the Earth International.