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Did Copenhagen talks open door to a new global order?

Four formerly developing countries took the reins during climate talks in Copenhagen: China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. It could herald a redistribution of global clout, some experts say.

By Peter N. SpottsStaff writer / January 14, 2010

A woman stops with her bicycle to look at the "Cool Globes" exhibition about combating global warming and climate change in the Kongens Nytorv area in the center of Copenhagen on December 19, 2009.

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Global climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, last month represented the latest sign that global power is shifting in ways that could give major developing countries a greater say in the global economic and environmental order.

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That's the view several analysts offer as they take stock of December's dramatic talks in the Danish capital. The final deal was not struck among the more than 190 nations attending. Instead, much of it was crafted by the heads of state of about 30 countries, with key details ironed out at the last minute between the US, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil.

The geopolitical landscape is shifting, said former US Sen. Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington.

"Copenhagen was a place where a lot of that played out," added Mr. Wirth, speaking at a United Nations Foundation conference on green investing in New York Thursday.

The Copenhagen 5

The key players in the last-minute horsetrading in Denmark contrast strikingly to those involved in last-minute talks over the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In Kyoto, Japan, the core deal was struck between the US, Japan, and the European Union, explains Elliot Diringer, vice president for international strategies at the Pew Center for Global Climate Change in Arlington, Va.

The difference partly reflects the differences between the respective agreements. The Kyoto Protocol covers only industrial countries. The Copenhagen political agreement aims to include developing countries. While they aren't expected to take on absolute cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions against a given base year, the way industrial countries are – at least for now – they are expected to substantially reduce their emissions below a so-called business-as-usual trajectory.

But the difference also suggests that the economic gap between developed and developing countries – one measured as much by greenhouse-gas emissions as by standard economic statistics – has narrowed significantly.

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