Copenhagen Climate Summit Ends with Meaningful First Step Deal

Announcement follows two weeks of tough negotiations, but falls short of what some had hoped for

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that wealthy and developing nations have reached what, he called a meaningful agreement at the UN Climate Change conference. The announcement came in the final hours of two weeks of tough negotiations, but fell far short of what some had hoped for.

Agreement came late in the evening and after a day of intense negotiations.

President Obama announced what he called a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough. "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 said.

Negotiations stalled amid differences over mitigation efforts by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, verification and funding.

That formed the core of discussions, said Mr. Obama. "Throughout the day we worked with many countries to establish a new consensus around these three points, a consensus that will serve as a foundation for global action to confront the threat of climate change for years to come," he said.

The agreement requires countries to list actions they will take to cut gas emissions by specific amounts and allows for verification.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it a good first step, but said a binding treaty must follow.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel also called it a first step and urged more action. 

President Obama acknowledged that as well, saying this progress had not come easy and alone is not enough. "Going forward we're going to have to build on the momentum that we've established here in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time. We've come a long way but we have much further to go," her said.

The agreement is a far cry from what environmentalists and developing nations had called for. They wanted a legally binding treaty with much more specific commitments.

Some environmental groups criticized the agreement.  Kim Carstensen of the World Wildlife Fund spoke of a non-deal that is not fair and does not meet the demands of the developing world. "It's been cooked up by a number of big countries in a closed room, without any transparency, without any civil society engagement in this building (the conference), without much engagement of the vulnerable countries," she said.

Climate talks are to continue.  Germany is to call a meeting on the issue in the coming months and a climate change summit is also expected to be held in Mexico within the coming year.

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