The UN climate summit finally passed the Copenhagen Accord Saturday after two days of intense negotiations and backroom maneuvers. The Accord, proposed by India and four other countries, is now "operational", a relieved UN chief said.
The Accord that is meant to be a first step towards fighting the climate change that is affecting millions worldwide was still held up for hours by four countries.
Tuvalu and Sudan said it was too weak, while Venezuela and Bolivia were upset because it had not been negotiated in the open by all the 192 countries attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference.
The impasse lasted seven hours - including three adjournments - after the final plenary session of the conference was convened at 3 a.m. Saturday, already 12 hours behind schedule.
But when it was reconvened after the third adjournment, the chairman took just 30 seconds to say this conference was "taking note" of the Copenhagen Accord, and brought down the gavel before any of the surprised delegates in the main plenary hall could react.
The chair's only concession to the countries with objections: The countries that approved the Accord would be listed on the title page, he said.
Once they had taken in what happened, almost all the delegates stood and applauded loud and long.
Soon afterwards, a relieved-looking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came out of the plenary hall to tell the media: "Finally we sealed the deal."
"It has been a long and interesting couple of days," Ban said, referring to the negotiations after US President Barack Obama got together with the heads of India, China, Brazil and South Africa Thursday evening to stitch the Accord together.
Ban, who had not gone to his hotel room for two nights and had slept for a total of two hours during this period, said: "Bringing world leaders to the table paid off. This may not deliver what everyone hoped for, but it's an essential beginning."
According to the UN chief, the Accord had the four benchmarks - a common long-term goal of keeping global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius; a commitment by all countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the atmosphere; progress on tackling deforestation and the start of a fund which developing countries - especially the poorest ones - could use to cope with climate change effects.
Ban pointed out that the Accord was backed by money - $10 billion a year for the next three years, and then $100 billion a year that the US government had promised to put together from all sources around the globe.
He added that now there was "convergence" on "transparency" over actions taken developing countries to control their greenhouse gas emissions, referring to a long-fought dispute between rich countries and emerging economies.
The Copenhagen Accord would "launch a new era of green growth", Ban was confident.
He listed the next steps in the process - turning the accord into a legally binding global treaty; the launch of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund; and "turning our backs on the path of least resistance when it comes to mitigation actions".
The Accord had to be passed by the plenary session of the conference so that these steps could now be taken, explained an expert on UN procedures.
Ban said: "It's a political accord, but with immediate operational effect."
He expected the fund to have $10 billion next month. The Accord also says developed countries should report their mitigation actions by Feb 1, 2010, while large developing countries like India and China had to report their "mitigation ambitions" by the same deadline.
Asked why the conference used the phrase that it had "taken note" of the Accord, Ban explained it was to satisfy "some member states that were still reluctant. These are very difficult and complex negotiations".
The UN chief could not give a timeframe within which the Copenhagen Accord would be turned into a legally binding treaty, but said he would do his best to complete the process next year.