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Copenhagen summit

December 18, 2009

US President Barack Obama says a "meaningful agreement" has been reached at the Copenhagen climate summit. But the deal has received a lukewarm response from European leaders.

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama hails climate change agreementImage: AP

At a news conference in Copenhagen US President Barack Obama told journalists Friday that "for the first time in history all major economies are taking action against climate change."

But the US President admitted there was more to be done."This agreement is not enough", Obama said. "I want to make sure that whatever we promise we can deliver on."

Asked why there was no mention in the final text of emissions targets Obama replied: "Each nation will be putting up concrete commitments, subject to international examination and analysis. It will not be legally binding but will allow each country to show to the world what they are doing. We will then know the countries who are meeting their commitments and who are not."

Multi-lateral meeting in Copenhagen clinched last-minute deal
Multi-lateral meeting clinched last-minute dealImage: AP

There was, however, no reference to medium or long-term target dates. The US President said emissions targets "by themselves" would not be enough to combat climate change.

"The challenge, especially for emerging countries, which are still in different stages of development, is that it was important to get a shift in orientation moving, to what I think, will be the most significant part of this accord."

Chinese reaction

The head of the Chinese delegation at the UN climate conference issued a statement saying that the agreement was a "positive result. All should be happy."

"After negotiations both sides have managed to preserve their bottom line, for the Chinese this was our sovereignty and our national interest," Xie Zhenhua told reporters.

Around a 1,000 people protest on the streets of Copenhagen on the last day of the UN climate summit
Around 1,000 people protest on the streets of Copenhagen on the last day of the UN climate summitImage: AP

EU perspective - "better a deal than no deal"

EU leaders expressed widespread disappointment that their offer to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020 over 1990 levels had not been matched.

"A deal is better than no deal. What could be agreed today, falls far below our expectations. But it keeps our goals and ambitions alive. It addresses the needs of developing countries. It was the only deal available in Copenhagen," an EU spokeswoman said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the outcome was "very difficult" for her. "We have taken one step forward but I would have preferred several steps," Merkel told reporters.

"The negotiations were extremely difficult", she said, adding that she had "mixed feelings" on the final outcome.

The German Chancellor acknowledged that it had not been possible to secure binding commitments from emerging and developing nations. "The path to a new treaty is still a long way to go", said Merkel.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the accord reached was an agreement that includes the whole international community.

"All countries are to contribute 100 billion dollars annual assistance for poor countries by the year 2020", Sarkozy told journalists.

Bonn to host follow-up talks

Sarkozy told AFP news agency that Germany will be hosting a climate conference in six months time followed by Mexico in November 2010.

A British official at the climate talks was quoted as saying that there had been "real movement" in negotiations at Copenhagen to reach a climate deal on global warming.

The climate deal was struck late Friday evening at the UN Climate Summit after a meeting between US President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and South African President Jacob Zuma.

Earlier, amid deep divisions, world leaders had published a draft agreement, including a limit on global warming to two degrees Celsius and also financial contributions for developing nations to fight climate change.

Editor: Ian P. Johnson