COP15 report: The final hours

21 December 2009

Officials and ministers worked through the night and into Saturday morning to finalize agreement on the 'Copenhagen Accord' and other decisions from two weeks of climate negotiations.

Following President Obama's announcement of the Accord late on Friday it gradually began to emerge that there was indeed significant support for the deal. This was not universal however. The Sudanese Ambassador, and current chair of the G77/China negotiating group, held an impromptu press conference. Speaking on behalf of Sudan only, he denounced the accord and accused the US and the Danish government of a conspiracy.

An EU press conference verified European support for the deal. A clearly disappointed European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the accord was not perfect and certainly less than what the EU had hoped to achieve. However, he said, it was a start and it was vital to build on this.

At 3.00am Parties reconvened a joint-plenary meeting to officially adopt the accord and other decisions. As expected, obtaining consensus proved to be extremely difficult. Although the majority of countries confirmed their support for the deal, a small group consisting of Sudan, Tuvalu and several Latin American countries, including Venezuala blocked consensus. 

The reasons for opposition varied, reflecting each country's broader political objectives. At times the debate was personal, stretching and then breaking professional diplomatic etiquette. It took another six and a half hours of cajoling, minor decision amendments and finally a change in chairing tactics to reach agreement at around 10.30am on Saturday morning. 

It certainly wasn't a display of the United Nations system working at its finest, but after two weeks of tough negotiations, a new political climate deal had been done. 

As the dust clears from Copenhagen, the issue for many will be determining what this new arrangement means. It is clear that this is neither a perfect nor a final deal. As leaders stated, much remains to be done to raise the level of ambition. What is certain is that a new and significant phase in the international effort to address climate change has begun.

Click here to read the Copenhagen Accord.

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