The US gave a spirited defense on Friday of the threadbare agreement reached in Copenhagen against a barrage of criticism that the deal was struck by “a select few” that cast doubt on its legitimacy.
Differences were striking as countries began the first round of climate talks since the disappointing summit in the Danish capital in December, which yielded a result far short of the goal set two years earlier of a new agreement to control greenhouse gases blamed for raising the Earth’s average temperature.
Delegates were in disagreement about whether that missed deadline last year should be reset for this year, or whether to set their sights lower for an agreement on the architecture of what the final deal should look like. Also unclear is whether any agreement would be legally binding.
Few delegates believed a final agreement is possible this year and probably will wait until the end of next year.
Chief US delegate Jonathan Pershing said the three-page deal brokered in Copenhagen by US President Barack Obama with China and other developing countries was “a significant milestone in our collective effort” to limit global warming to manageable levels.
It prompted dozens of countries to register what they will do to reduce or limit the growth of carbon emissions, he said, and it set up provisions to raise nearly US$30 billion over the next three years to help poor countries combat the effects of climate change, ramping up to US$100 billion a year by 2020.
“Amazing. We should not drop that or lose that,” Pershing told negotiators from 175 countries.
The agreement, while scoring breakthroughs on key issues, has been criticized because all commitments on emissions are voluntary rather than binding, and because it set goals without indicating how they could be reached.
Pershing said the deal was done by a small group of international leaders after the UN negotiating process failed following two years of talks to resolve the crunch issues. It could only be accomplished because of the attendance of some 120 heads of state or government at Copenhagen, history’s largest environmental summit.
“Getting that deal was hard. Every country gave up something,” Pershing said.
Over the next several months, about 120 countries sent letters to the UN climate secretariat associating themselves with the accord.
Still, the manner in which the deal was made in 36 hours of frenetic back-room negotiation came under concerted attack on Friday, as delegates tried to come up with a plan on how to continue the negotiations.
The words, “inclusiveness, transparency and legitimacy” were repeated in statements by country after country on the opening day of the three-day meeting, called to draw up a work program leading up to the next major conference in Cancun, Mexico, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 10.
Now negotiators are debating whether to continue talks on the basis of the Copenhagen deal or return to a draft agreement that was being negotiated by all 194 countries participating in the UN process. That draft was riddled with hundreds of paragraphs in brackets, indicating they were still in dispute.
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