Obama praises a climate flop… Copenhagen talks end with dud of a deal.
By CHARLES HURT Bureau Chief
December 19, 2009
WASHINGTON — After a day spent frantically darting around Copenhagen trying to locate world leaders, getting snubbed by China’s premier and crashing a meeting where he had initially been kept out, President Obama heralded a last-minute, largely toothless UN global-warming summit deal that drew fast fire from all sides as a sham.
Almost no one was happy with the outcome of the two-week confab and even the president, who was slammed by liberals and Republicans alike, along with other world leaders, admitted that the pact doesn’t legally commit any of the nations involved — the point of the summit in the first place.
Obama may become known as “the man who killed Copenhagen,” said Greenpeace US head Phil Radford, one of many activists to rap the president for the flimsy agreement with India, South Africa, Brazil and China, which thwarted the president throughout the conference.
The deal, which would have to be accepted by all nations to be adopted, asks all parties to list how they’ll cap emissions by set amounts, among other general goals. But critics say it pushes any legally binding steps into the future. It was roundly blasted as a farce from all quarters.
“The president has wrecked the UN and he’s wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming,” said Bill McKibbon of the progressive group 350.org. “It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it’s at the expense of everything progressives have held dear.”
Friends of the Earth tore into the pact as well. “Climate negotiations in Copenhagen have yielded a sham agreement with no real requirements for any countries,” the group said in a statement. “This is not a strong deal or a just one — it isn’t even a real one.” Despite the liberal outrage, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boosted the president by saying he fostered the “critical” deal, which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a “a big step forward.” But some world leaders couldn’t swallow the agreement, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she had hoped all nations would promise deeper cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuel. “The decision has been very difficult for me,” she said. And leaders of poorer nations called the deal a “disaster.”
In fact, Sudan’s Lumumba Stanislaus Di-aping said the plan “is a solution based on the same very values, in our opinion, that channeled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” The conservative Club for Growth offered tongue-in-cheek applause for Obama. “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact,” said the group’s president, Chris Chocola. The deal came after a long day of testy negotiations and surprisingly dire pleadings by Obama. “I come not to talk, but to act,” the visibly irritated president told negotiators on the last day of the two-week conference. “The time for talk is over.”
White House aides described an extraordinary scene of desperation and disarray during the final hours of negotiations in Copenhagen. Obama and his team were prepared to give up hope for a broad deal after hearing that leaders of India, Brazil and other key nations — along with much of the entire Chinese delegation — had already left for the airport. But that wasn’t the case.
Instead, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao insultingly skipped a high-level meeting in the morning, leaving Obama and other world leaders negotiating with a lower-level government official.
Wen later attend a meeting with President Lula de Silva of Brazil as well as the leaders of India and South Africa. Obama decided he wanted to go, and was forced to barge into the meeting. “Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?” the exasperated Obama inquired loudly from the conference-room door, in front of the press and other world leaders who had already gathered. “We can’t get into the room to look at it,” explained one of the advance officials. “They’re all having a meeting.” There wasn’t even a seat for Obama.”
The president walks in and by the time I finally push through I hear the president say, ‘There aren’t any seats,’ ” explained one of the officials. “And the president says, ‘No, no, don’t worry, I’m going to go sit by my friend Lula,’ and says, ‘Hey, Lula,’ ” the advance official said. Obama walked over, moved a chair beside the Brazilian leader and took a seat.
He later tried to put a positive spin on the meeting, saying a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” had been reached. “We have come a long way, but we have much further to go,” the president said. And although officials called it a “meaningful agreement,” UN officials acknowledged it would not do enough to combat the threat they say is posed by global warming. Others derided the conference as a failure that did little more than provide Third World dictators like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe a platform for again bashing the United States.