Tentative deal reached at climate meeting

COPENHAGEN — Key international leaders have reached a tentative deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change, after the United States and China agreed to a method for recording developing nations' pledges to limit emissions and ensuring those pledges are carried out.

Details of the agreement were approved in an evening meeting with President Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, sources said.

Obama has scheduled a news conference in the host Bella Center to unveil the agreement.

A senior administration official said after the meeting that the parties had reached a "meaningful agreement."

"It's not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change but it's an important first step," the official said.

"We entered this negotiation at a time when there were significant differences between countries. Developed and developing countries have now agreed to listing their national actions and commitments, a finance mechanism, to set a mitigation target of 2 degrees Celsius and to provide information on the implementation of their actions through national communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines.

"No country is entirely satisfied with each element but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress."

The deal includes specific targets for rich nations to reduce the emissions scientists blame for global warming; for emerging powers to reduce them as a share of their economies; a transparency provision that will subject China, India and other fast-developing nations to international review of their self-reported progress on emissions limits; and a commitment by wealthy nations to marshal $100 billion a year in climate aid for poor nations by 2020.

It could pave the way for a full agreement at the summit here, but not a legally binding treaty — for now.

It comes after a tense two weeks of negotiations that had left diplomats and heads of state visibly frustrated Friday morning after a long night of talks.

And it is the culmination of a full-court press by the Americans to woo China, including dispatching fully half of the U.S. negotiators to focus on the Chinese, and a sharp rejoinder from Obama in a speech Friday morning to the leaders gathered here.

"We are ready to get this done today," Obama said. "But there has to be movement on all sides."

In an eight-minute speech, Obama sketched the pillars of a possible deal: commitments by industrialized and fast-growing countries to limit emissions, a way of monitoring whether countries keep their emissions commitments and an aid package to help poor nations adapt to climate change and change to low-emission energy.

The president promised that the United States would keep its pledge to reduce emissions — in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 —"no matter what happens in Copenhagen."

But he also warned that the world risked, by failing to come to agreement here, prolonging an already protracted debate while the effects of climate change worsen.

In a nod to Chinese concerns, Obama said any verification mechanism for emissions pledges "need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty." But he also said that any agreement without a transparency provision would be "a hollow victory."

Shortly before Obama spoke, Wen danced around the transparency question in a short speech to the conference, though he said China "will honor our word with real action. Whatever this conference may produce, we will remain committed to achieving and even exceeding the target" it has set for reducing emissions as a share of its growing economy.

The two leaders later met one-on-one in the morning, then again in the evening with the Brazilian and Indian leaders.

Their breakthrough appeared to answer Lula's hopes for divine intervention to rescue negotiations.

"I don't know if some angel or some wise men will come down to this (meeting) and put the intelligence into our minds that we've lacked until now," the Brazilian president told the summit earlier Friday.

"Since I believe in God, I believe in miracles. And a miracle can happen, and I want to be part of that miracle."