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UN Chief says Climate Change Accord is Real Deal

Lisa Bryant | Paris 19 December 2009

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed a controversial climate change accord reached in Copenhagen after all-night talks among world leaders. The agreement has drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists and poorer nations.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a nonbinding climate change agreement reached with difficulty by world leaders in Copenhagen was nonetheless a real deal.

After doubts, disappointments and feelings that two weeks of climate change talks in the Danish capital were going nowhere, Mr. Ban said bringing world leaders to the table for the final stage of negotiations had paid off. He said progress had been made on four key benchmarks he had laid out in September for Copenhagen to be a success.

"All countries have agreed to work towards a common long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius. Many governments have made important commitments to reduce or limit emissions," he said.

The so-called Copenhagen Accord is a compromise plan spearheaded by the United States and four key emerging economies - China, Brazil, India and South Africa. It sets targets to prevent the planet's average temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and outlines a plan of $100 billion in annual aid to poor nations to deal with climate change, starting in 2020.

But the accord is nonbinding. And it failed to earn universal support from the 193 nations participating at the summit, leaving the conference chair to conclude that participants merely "take note" of the deal.

Mr. Ban also said the accord only marked a beginning - with a lot of work still ahead.

"First, we need to turn this agreement into a legally binding treaty," he said. "I will work with world leaders over the coming months to make this happen. Second, we must launch the Copenhagen Green Climate fund. The UN system will work to ensure that it can immediately start to deliver immediate results to people in need and jump-start clean energy growth in developing countries.

Mr. Ban also said it was important for nations to be more ambitious in fighting climate change, noting country commitments to date fell short of what science said was needed. The Copenhagen agreement leaves lots of details undecided. It sets a January 2010 deadline for all nations to submit their emissions-cutting plans to the United Nations.

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