"COPENHAGEN -- When two weeks of climate negotiations finally wound to an overtime finish in Copenhagen, the goal of a new binding treaty to combat global warming still looked elusively far away. And, even for climate activists, the question was: 'Is that so bad?'
The summit officially ended Saturday with a gentlemen's agreement among the world's largest economies to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but no formal consensus on the part of the 193 nations present -- and no prescription for what comes next in the global negotiating process that is nearly 20 years old.
It was a muddled mandate from a conference originally intended to produce a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. And it left the impression that any success in humankind's efforts to avert the worst effects of climate change may be less an outcome of formal bargaining than of domestic politics, scientific innovation and, above all, the power of the emerging global market in low-emitting sources of energy.
The most celebrated aspects of the so-called Copenhagen Accord, at least initially, were a batch of provisions that will boost the likelihood of major emitters acting on their own to reduce carbon pollution and will send clear signals to clean-energy investors and inventors."