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A Compromise on Climate Change at Copenhagen

Only five countries reached a deal at the talks in Denmark and the agreement is voluntary. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Almost two hundred countries met for two weeks at a United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the end, only five of them reached an agreement: the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

President Obama praised the agreement last Friday. This week, he said many people are disappointed in the agreement. But he said the compromise was better than nothing.

The voluntary agreement urges major polluters to make deeper cuts in the release of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, are created in part by burning oil and coal for transportation and electricity.

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The agreement sets targets to prevent the Earth's average temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. And the plan calls for one hundred billion dollars a year in aid to poor nations to deal with climate change. This would start in two thousand twenty.

But the agreement, known as the Copenhagen Accord, is not legally binding. It fails to set detailed targets for cuts in carbon emissions. And it failed to earn the support of all the nations at the talks.

India's environment minister praised the united position taken by India, China, Brazil and South Africa. He said it permitted them to avoid the legally binding targets and international supervision proposed by developed countries.

India, for example, has promised to cut emissions by at least twenty percent from two thousand five levels by two thousand twenty. But big developing countries do not want to limit their economic growth. They say rich nations created the problem, so they should take most of the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases.

China rejected accusations by critics that it was responsible for the results at Copenhagen. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said developed countries did not perform well at the talks. She said China has taken its own measures to fight climate change and supports pressing ahead with international cooperation.

China and other large developing countries have accused rich nations of failing to offer big enough cuts in their own emissions. They also say wealthy nations did not offer enough money and technology to help poor countries deal with climate change.

In Europe, politicians and environmentalists expressed deep disappointment that world leaders failed to reach a stronger agreement.

But United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the Copenhagen Accord is only a beginning. He says he will work with world leaders to reach a legally binding treaty in the coming months.

By next month all countries are supposed to have plans for cutting emissions. And climate talks will continue in the coming year with meetings in Germany and Mexico.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.