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Obama brokers climate accord

The nonbinding five-nation pact, critics say, sets no target levels for curbing greenhouse gases.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Two years of laborious negotiations on a climate agreement ended yesterday with a political deal brokered by President Obama with China and other emerging powers, but denounced by some countries because it was nonbinding and set no overall target for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a leading proponent of strong action to confront global warming, gave the Copenhagen Accord grudging acceptance but said she had "mixed feelings" about the outcome and called it only a first step.

Obama's day of frenetic diplomacy produced a three-page document promising $30 billion in emergency aid in the next three years and a goal of channeling $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries with no guarantees.

The five-nation agreement includes a method for verifying reductions of heat-trapping gases, a key demand by Washington, because China has resisted international efforts to monitor its actions.

The agreement, which also includes India, South Africa, and Brazil, requires industrial countries to list their individual targets and developing countries to list the actions they will take to cut global-warming pollution by specific amounts.

Obama called that an "unprecedented breakthrough."

"We have come a long way, but we have much further to go," he said.

If the countries had waited to reach a full, binding agreement, "then we wouldn't make any progress," Obama said. In that case, he said, "there might be such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward, we ended up taking two steps back."

He suggested the agreement would be adopted by the larger summit in its closing hours. The conference continued into the early hours today with delegates preparing for a final plenary session.

The emerging outcome was a disappointment to those who had anticipated that the Copenhagen Accord would be turned into a legally binding treaty with specific targets of emission. Instead, it envisions another year of negotiations and leaves myriad details yet to be decided. Merkel said "the path toward a new agreement is still a very long one."

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the agreement had almost universal support. "Let's remember, a year ago nobody thought this sort of agreement was possible," he said.

Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese ambassador who chairs the bloc of developing countries, called it "extremely flawed."

"A gross violation has been committed today against the poor, against the tradition of transparency and participation of equal footing for all parties of the convention, and against common sense," he said, complaining that Obama negotiated the pact in one-on-one meetings and a forum of 25 nations.

The document said carbon emissions should be reduced enough to keep the increase in average temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is stronger than in any previous declaration accepted by the rich countries.

However, environmental groups called it a meaningless aspiration.

"The deal is a triumph of spin over substance. It recognizes the need to keep warming below [3.6 degrees], but does not commit to do so. It kicks back the big decisions on emissions cuts and fudges the issue of climate cash," said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, an organization that works with developing countries.

Obama spent the final scheduled day of the climate talks huddling with world leaders, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in a bid to salvage the accord amid deep divisions between rich and poor nations.

The president said there was a "fundamental deadlock in perspectives" between big, industrially developed countries like the United States and poorer, though sometimes large, developing nations. Still he said this week's efforts "will help us begin to meet our responsibilities to leave our children and grandchildren a cleaner planet."

The deal as described by Obama reflects some progress helping poor nations cope with climate change and getting China to disclose its actions to address the warming problem. He said the world would have to take more aggressive steps to combat global warming. The first step, he said, is to build trust between developed and developing countries.

"It's not what we expected," Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Barbosa Serra said. "[But] it may still be a way of salvaging something and paving the way for another meeting or series of meetings next year."

Obama had planned to spend only about nine hours in Copenhagen as the summit wrapped up. But, as an agreement appeared within reach, he extended his stay by more than six hours to attend a series of meetings aimed at brokering a deal.

The two-week, 193-nation conference has been plagued by growing distrust between rich and poor nations. Each side blamed the other for failing to take ambitious actions to tackle climate change. At one point, African delegates staged a partial boycott of the talks.

Many delegates had been looking to China and the United States, the world's two largest carbon polluters, to deepen their pledges to cut their emissions. But that was not to be.

"We are ready to get this done today, but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that it is better for us to act rather than talk," Obama had said in an address to the conference, insisting on a transparent way to monitor each nation's pledges to cut emissions.

As talks evolved, new drafts of the document emerged with key clauses being inserted, deleted, and reintroduced with new wording. In a diatribe against the United States, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the conference as undemocratic. "There is a real lack of transparency here," he said.


The United States and Russia have agreed on most issues in a new treaty that would cut strategic nuclear warheads by one-fourth.


The world is coming to know President Obama, the pragmatist who says: Let's get done what we can, imperfect as it is. A4.