The drama was of high order. In the decidedly unglamorous side-rooms of Copenhagen's Bella Center, leaders of the most powerful countries of the world faced off, trying to rewrite the rules for how the world confronts the risk of catastrophic climate change. Thousands in the center and untold numbers around the world awaited the result.
The outcome - a three-page political declaration known as the "Copenhagen Accord" - has been roundly attacked. "The worst development in climate change negotiating history," said the spokesman for the G-77 block of about 130 developing nations. Greenpeace, which is hardly ever satisfied with anything, declared it "a crime scene with the guilty leaving for the airport." The London Independent's front page proclaimed it "a historic failure that will live in infamy."
These descriptions are ridiculous. The Copenhagen Accord is a serious step forward, if a severely limited one. It starts by establishing a concrete and demanding goal: keeping the rise in global temperature to two degrees Centigrade. Up to now we have been working with a slippery aim of avoiding dangerous harm to the atmosphere. The new objective lets people and governments do the math, and see if their efforts are adding up.
Moreover, for the first time in 17 years of negotiations all the major emitters of greenhouse gases have acknowledged that they have specific individual responsibilities to reduce their emissions.
The Kyoto protocol divided the world into industrialized countries, which had specific obligations to control their emissions, and developing ones, which didn't.