Obama calls for action in Copenhagen

Friday, December 18, 2009 - 2:25pm

COPENHAGEN — A visibly angry Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet at China and other developing nations Friday, declaring that the time has come "not to talk but to act" on climate change.

Obama’s public ultimatum kicked off a furious round of bilateral negotiations between the world’s two largest pollution emitters as the conference entered its final hours, with Obama plunging into a pair of intense one-on-one bargaining sessions with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who had earlier boycotted a larger, multi-nation meeting with Obama.

As night fell in the Danish capital, the talks dragged on, with Obama extending his visit to complete a deal even as a big snowstorm closed in on Washington D.C.

The outlines of a relatively vague “political” agreement seemed to be taking shape, according to three drafts of possible statements leaked to the press Friday. The latest draft contained a goal of capping global temperature increases to 1.5 percent – a tougher standard than the previous 2 percent threshold in earlier drafts.

Still, there was no hint of the emissions caps that were thought to be critical before the conference began two weeks ago.

On Friday morning, Obama warned delegates that U.S. offers of funding for poor nations would remain on the table “if and only if” developing nations, including China, agreed to international monitoring of their greenhouse gas emissions.

"I have to be honest, as the world watches us ... I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt and it hangs in the balance,” Obama told the COP-15 plenary session as hope faded for anything more than a vague political agreement.

“The time for talk is over, this is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of an historic endeavor, or we can choose delay,” he said.

He added, “The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. … We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years.”