World Leaders Conclude Climate Change Talks with Nonbinding Accord

Delegates at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, concluded their historic two-week gathering Saturday with a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord" that signals a new start for rich-poor cooperation on climate change but falls short on concrete steps against the global phenomenon.

It's "an impressive accord," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said of the three-page document.

"But it's not an accord that is legally binding, not an accord that pins down industrialized countries to targets," he acknowledged to reporters.

CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis, the world's largest alliance of aid and development agencies, meanwhile, called the proposed deal "weak and morally reprehensible" as well as one that could spell disaster for millions of the world's poorest people.

"People in developing countries are already struggling with the effects of climate change. We only have a short window of opportunity to prevent even worse to come," commented Niamh Garvey of CIDSE member Trócaire/Caritas Ireland from the Bella Center.

"The deal put forward in Copenhagen fails to provide the commitments that the science says is required," she added. "Millions of people are now fighting to keep their heads above water while political leaders stall."

Under the "Copenhagen Accord," nations agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions, "with a view" to scientists' warnings to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.

The deal also commits developing nations to report every two years on their voluntary actions to reduce emissions and commits richer nations to finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to fund poorer nations' projects to deal with drought and other climate-change impacts, and to develop clean energy.

Notably, however, while the accord includes a method for verifying each nation's reductions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, it does nothing to demand them.

Furthermore, as CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis pointed out, while all 193 nations expressed a willingness to continue working, the proposed deal itself presents no clear time line for concluding a fair ambitious and legally binding agreement in the coming months.

"It is inconceivable that with more than 100 world leaders gathered together in one room to make a pact to solve a global problem, they have failed to commit themselves to adequate and binding obligations," said CIDSE Secretary General Bernd Nilles.

"They can call it an historical accord, a declaration, whatever they like. The reality is that leaders have failed to deliver a concrete and effective solution; they have passed up this historical opportunity to set a clear and collective pathway to a sustainable future," Nilles added.

A legally binding international agreement requiring further emissions cuts by richer nations was the goal in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 when the annual U.N. conference set a two-year timetable leading to Copenhagen.

A new pact would succeed the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Under Kyoto, 37 industrial countries are required to cut 1990 emissions levels a total 5 percent by 2012, and based on the declarations from wealthy countries before the meeting in Copenhagen, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature estimated the total emissions cut would amount to 10 percent by 2020.

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