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Environment

Nations quietly reaffirm Copenhagen climate pledges

The world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases have reaffirmed their emissions reduction goals, quietly meeting a United Nations deadline for the endorsement of December’s Copenhagen Accord.

 ** FILE ** Residents walk across the frozen Songhua River in front of smoke stacks at Jiamusi, in China's northeast Heilongjiang province

Emissions reduction pledges were considered weak

Countries including the United States, China and several EU member states have restated their commitments to a United Nations climate agreement reached in Copenhagen in December. The UN had set a deadline of January 31 for the reaffirmations.

The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the need to limit global temperature increases to two degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). It also commits rich countries to paying out around $30 billion (21.6 billion euros) to poor countries over the next three years to help them cope with climate change.

The agreement has been widely considered a bare-minimum agreement that falls far short of original goals.

Delegates to a UN climate change conference pass environmental activists holding a global warming sign

The Copenhagen Accord failed to live up to public expectations

Reaffirmations of the accord had been trickling in during the days leading up to the UN deadline. On January 27, the EU reconfirmed its unilateral goal of a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels, and 30 percent if other nations also pledged further reductions.

The US said it would stick to its pledge to cut carbon emissions by around 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. China reiterated on January 28 that it would seek to cut the amount of carbon produced per unit of economic output by 40-45 percent by 2020.

Major emitters India and Brazil, among other nations, also reaffirmed the non-binding pledges they made in Copenhagen. In all, nations emitting two-thirds of the world's carbon dioxide have reconfirmed their Copenhagen pledges.

Next steps

Whether key nations met the UN deadline was seen as a litmus test for the chances of a legally binding climate pact being agreed by the end of this year.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must now work on creating a system for the distribution of funds to poor countries to help them adapt to dangerous climate change.

The UNFCC must also devise a tool to calculate whether developing nations such as China and India are adhering to their emissions reduction pledges.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has called for monthly meetings of the "Group of 28" countries that helped agree the Copenhagen Accord.

dfm/AFP/Reuters

Editor: Rob Turner

DW.DE