Obama Calls Global Warming Agreement an “Unprecedented Breakthrough”

By Lindsey Ellerson

Dec 18, 2009 6:54pm

ABC News’ Jim Sciutto and Sunlen Miller report:

President Obama touted that “for the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change,” calling the late-hour agreement struck in Copenhagen, Denmark an “unprecedented breakthrough.”

The President noted that the countries came to the Copenhagen climate change conference with an “ambitious target” to reduce emissions – reaffirming the three components he called for in his speech before leaders earlier today: transparency, mitigation and finance.

Mr. Obama noted that he had a meeting with the leaders from China, India, Brazil, and South Africa before an agreement was reached.

“And that’s where we agreed to list our national actions and commitments, to provide information on the implementation on these actions through national communications, with international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines,” Mr. Obama said, “We agreed to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 degree Celsius, and importantly to take action to meet this objective consistent with science.”

The accord is not legally binding, but Mr. Obama said that the hope is that the “we’re in this together” mentality will be a watch-dog of sorts among the countries.

“The way this agreement is structured, each nation will be putting concrete commitments into an appendix of the document and so will lay out very specifically what each country’s intentions are. Those commitments will then be subject to a international consultation and analysis….. it will do is allow for each country to show to the world that they are doing. And there will be a sense on the part of each country that we’re in this together. And we’ll know who is meeting and who is not meeting the mutual obligations that have been set forth.”

While expressing hope for a legally binding agreement in the future, the first goal of the summit which had to be scaled back, Mr. Obama admitted that it is going to “be very hard,” and “take some time.”

“It is still going to require more work and greater confidence building between emerging countries, the least developed countries and the developed countries before I think you are going to see another legally binding treaty signed. I actually think that is necessary for us to get to such a treaty, and I am supportive of such efforts but this is a classic example of a situation where if we just waited for that then we would not make any progress. And in fact I think there might be such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward, we ended up taking two steps back.”

As he often does, Mr. Obama’s message at the summit was to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“This is hard within countries, it’s going to be even harder between countries and you know one of the things that I felt very strongly about over the course of this year is that the hard stuff requires not paralysis but it requires going ahead and making the best of the situation at this point.” 

The President said the progress did not come easily but that this alone is not enough.

“Going forward we are going to have to build on the momentum that we established here in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time. We have come a long way but we have much more to go.”

Mr. Obama will depart the conference earlier than the rest of the leaders due to the massive winter storm headed for Washington, D.C. But, Mr. Obama said that he’s confident with the status of agreement and can leave before an official vote.

“Because of weather constraints in Washington I am leaving before the final vote, but we feel confident that we are moving in the direction of a significant accord.”

He added, “What we have achieved in Copenhagen will not be the end, but rather the beginning. The beginning of a new era of international action.”

- Jim Sciutto and Sunlen Miller


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