How nations big and small fared with their goals in Copenhagen

Saturday, December 19, 2009; A06

United States

President Obama came in with high expectations and a handicap: The U.S. Senate has not passed a climate-change bill, so it wasn't clear what the president could promise. Obama appears to have played a key role in negotiating the final accord, but it was far weaker than even the modest expectations for the summit.


As the world's biggest emitter, China seemed to hold the strongest bargaining position coming in, because no accord could be credible without its involvement. China bridled at the idea of international monitors checking up on its pledges to tackle emissions. And, on that point, China seemed to get its way: The final accord does not contain provisions for such monitoring.

European Union

Europe's leaders came in pressing for an ambitious deal, and they had offered to make the biggest cuts in emissions, if others also would accept cuts. But that good-faith offer may have hurt their negotiating power, and the final accord fell far short of what they had sought.


Like China, India's fast-growing economy is producing a rising amount of emissions. And, like China, Indian leaders said before the conference that they would not accept cuts in emissions that would slow economic growth. Two weeks of lobbying and sermonizing did not seem to shift that position much: India played a key role in drafting the final language, which does not require the country to make concrete changes other than those it volunteers to make.


The island country's president sought to serve as a conscience of the conference. He advocated for more rigorous cuts on emissions, saying that "physics isn't politics" -- meaning that regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, the water around his country would keep rising. But politics won out: The cuts were rejected.


Prime Minister Meles Zenawi played a key role as spokesman for African countries, and by extension for the least-developed countries gathered at this conference. He helped create one of conference's few bright spots, agreeing to an offer from the industrialized world to provide $30 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

Saudi Arabia

The oil giant joined Venezuela and Sudan to press for compensation from the rest of the world if efforts to crack down on carbon dioxide emissions hurt their petroleum exports. They did not get it.


President Evo Morales made one of the conference's more colorful appearances, urging the delegates to try to limit the world's warming to even less than the 3.6-degree rise that powerful countries have set as their goal. "End the slavery of Mother Earth," Morales said. "She's now the slave of capitalist countries."


This Pacific nation, with a population of about 13,000, became the darling of environmental activists in the conference's first week by calling for high-emitting countries to begin cutting their emissions sharply. The proposal was rejected. "I woke up this morning crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit," one Tuvalu delegate said, thinking about his country's fate if sea levels keep rising.

David A. Fahrenthold and Kenneth W. Smith Jr./The Washington Post

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