Countries reach minimalist climate deal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other world leaders are leaving Copenhagen with a minimalist compromise climate deal and a vow to work out the details.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to reporters during a wrap up press conference following the 2009 United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other world leaders are leaving Copenhagen with a minimalist compromise climate deal and a vow to work out the details.

The so-called Copenhagen Accord offers money to developing nations to help them fight global warming — provided that they agree to open their books to international scrutiny.

Harper called it a “comprehensive and realistic” agreement, while U.S. President Barack Obama hailed it as a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.”

But it is not binding and it does not set new greenhouse-gas reduction targets. Instead, countries are to set their own emission reduction commitments, which would not be legally binding.

Those commitments will be the subject of further negotiation, with the aim of a final deal at next year’s summit in Mexico.

That’s far short of what environmentalists had hoped for: a binding deal that would cover major emitters such as the U.S. and China which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol.

It’s a compromise consensus born out of 12 days of divisive talks between rich countries and developing nations that saw hopes dwindle as the summit’s close drew near.

Obama arrived in the Danish capital Friday in the hopes his influence could sway the 193 countries present to get a deal done. He quickly convened a special meeting with 19 other leaders, but Harper was not on the guest list.

A Harper spokesman said the Danes compiled the list for Obama’s people based on a representative mix of regions and carbon emitters.

Harper had his audience with Obama over lunch Friday. The White House distributed a list of a dozen leaders the U.S. president chatted with in between bites.

Harper kept a low profile, making his first public statement Friday night. The prime minister hobnobbed with other leaders Thursday at a royal dinner hosted by the queen of Denmark, passing up the chance to deliver Canada’s address to the UN climate talks. He delegated that job to Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

Canada has faced criticism from developing countries and environmentalists who accuse the government of failing to make concessions to help reach a deal — and of relinquishing the country’s historic role as a progressive on the world stage.

Environmental groups bestowed the dubious “Colossal Fossil” award on Canada. They said Ottawa’s target for reducing its greenhouse gases is “among the worst in the industrialized world” and its plan to reach its goal is “so weak that it would put even that target out of reach.”

The mock honour capped a summit where Canada’s image has taken a serious scuffing.

Serial pranksters The Yes Men pulled a fast one on Canada this week that shone unflattering light on the government’s targets to lower greenhouse gases.

And provincial leaders, notably Quebec Premier Jean Charest, have assailed Ottawa for not doing enough to get the country’s emissions under control.

The Copenhagen talks were marked by divisions between rich countries and developing nations, and between the United States and China — the world’s two biggest polluters.

China was knocked for not offering stronger targets for reducing greenhouse gases, and for resisting international monitoring which it sees as an intrusion on its sovereignty. Other countries criticize the U.S. for coming to the talks too late with not enough to put on the table.

The U.S. stepped forward Thursday with a $1-trillion plan to break the deadlock between rich and developing countries. It offered to help raise $100 billion a year for the next decade to help the most vulnerable nations cope with a warming planet.

That includes an unspecified American contribution which would include a mix of public and private money. But there are a couple of catches: countries must agree to a climate deal in Copenhagen, and all must agree to “transparency” in reporting and verifying cuts to greenhouse gases.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused Harper of failing to show leadership and urged him to change course.

“For decades, the world has looked to Canada as a broker on progressive matters of international importance — regardless of the party in power. Now we are no longer even at the table,” he said.

“Mr. Harper came to Copenhagen with nothing productive to offer and no plan in hand. In fact, he is treating Copenhagen more like a trip to the dentist than the opportunity Canada’s clean-energy potential represents.”

Ignatieff also urged Harper to stop tying Candian policy to that of the U.S.

“We cannot allow Canadian environmental policy to be entirely dependent on American politics. We need an aggressive — made in Canada — climate-change plan now. And we’re willing to work with Mr. Harper on this if his government brings forward a serious plan that treats our provinces fairly and includes pollution reductions for all sectors.”

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