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Copenhagen Accord: Poor Response to Climate Deadline

Just 19 countries out of 193 have sent letters of intent to the United Nations to be part of a global climate change accord, the UN's climate chief says.

A demonstrator holds a signboard during a rally outside the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December 12, 2009. (Reuters/Bob Strong) Countries met in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December in pursuit of a legally binding deal to follow the Kyoto protocol on limiting global warming.

But a deal was not reached, and instead talks concluded with a Copenhagen accord, a non-binding document crafted by a small group of countries that account for around 80 per cent of world carbon emissions.

The two-week meeting, hamstrung by contentions over wording and objections by developing countries, led to a UN "soft deadline" of January 31 for nations to take sides on the accord, which, amongst other things, limits global warming to below two degrees Celsius.

"Whether we can achieve [a deal] in Mexico or need a bit more time remains to be seen, and will become clearer in the course of the year," Yvo de Boer, who is also Denmark's climate minster, said referring to the next scheduled ministerial meeting later this year.

'No surprises'

Changua Wu, the director of the Climate Group, told Al Jazeera: "You will not see any surprising news today in terms of more actions that the countries will be able to put on the table.

"China, India, Brazil and South Africa said they were ready to communicate their domestic voluntary committment into the accord."

The four developing nations formed an alliance in Copenhagen in order to reject any binding targets placed on developing countries, and to insist that wealthier nations would realise their pledge to help fund poorer nations' transition to low-carbon economies.

"We started to see Japan repeat its committment to a 25 per cent [carbon emissions] reduction, followed by Australia and the US," Changua Wu said.

"But we all know this is not enough. The committment we have after Copenhagen will not be able to address the challenges, or the two degree temperature rise we are talking about by the middle of the century.

"Today is a beginning of a new process in the international arena. Hopefully by the end of this year in Mexico, the international community will be able to come up with a new deal," she said.

'Robust agreement'

De Boer said that global climate talks may have to continue into 2011 after failing last month to agree on a Kyoto successor.

"It's very difficult to pin down," he said.

"One of the lessons from Copenhagen was don't rush it, take the time you need to get full engagement of all countries and make sure people are confident about what is being agreed."

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Sunday, Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, said a lack of trust and the economic crisis complicated prospects for a deal in the Mexican resort city of Cancun.

"My perception is that the lack of consensus is related to the economic problems in each nation, because there are economic costs associated with the task to tackle climate change," Calderon said.

"We want in Cancun a robust, comprehensive and substantial agreement, by all 193 signatories of the UN's climate convention."

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