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Copenhagen accord: 'essential beginning' to some, shaky foundation to others

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Secretary Ban acknowledged that negotiators "did not get everything that everyone hoped for." But, he added, the pact "is an essential beginning. It lays the foundation for the first truly global agreement" on climate."

Not legally binding

To many negotiators, especially from developing countries, it is a shaky foundation. The pact is not legally binding, although negotiators will try to craft formal treaty language over the next year. The emission-control efforts countries have included in the agreement falls well short of the emissions reductions the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates is needed to achieve a 2-degree goal. And long-term financing provisions to help developing countries adapt to global warming and afford the green technologies they will need to keep their emission-control pledges is too vague for many.

During the morning's plenary debate, the head of the delegation from the Marshall Islands lamented that he would "leave this conference with a sense of loss and sadness." The highest spot among the islands that make up the Marshalls is only about 7 feet above sea level, he explained. The 2-degree goal, he continued, is insufficient to prevent sea levels from eventually rising high enough to swamp most of the islands. "My country is one of the biggest losers in this exercise," he said.

European Union officials, who had dangled aggressive emissions cuts as an incentive for others to offer up more ambitious emission-control, also viewed the pact with a level of resignation.

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