And the Oscar for best performance at Copenhagen goes to…

Often the best diplomats are not the loudest.

Often the best diplomats are not the loudest.

COPENHAGEN–You will hear many denounce the Copenhagen Accord. Many would have done so no matter what happened here.

There are many who dreamed of greater strides, and those dreams have again been deferred.

But isn’t it truly a dream to expect 193 nations–each with its own demands–to draft a detailed agreement together?

Some good came out of this conference:

Nearly all of the world’s nations have committed to greenhouse-gas emissions cuts, to a new fund that will channel hundreds of billions of dollars into green initiatives, and to some international oversight of their actions.

In the most immediate and practical terms, over the next three years $30 billion will go to the poorest nations of the world, where it can stretch the farthest, to help those nations develop clean energy sources.

Agreements have been struck on deforestation, reforestation and clean-technology transfer. Brazil, where the Amazon jungle has been shrinking for centuries, has committed to redesigning its agricultural system.

Numerous nations have struck side deals, committing more hundreds of billions to green goals.

In loftier terms, the state of our planet is now undeniably the world’s leading political issue.

Some 119 nations thought the issue significant enough to send their heads of state to Copenhagen. Dozens of those heads of state now know enough about climate change to debate the intricacies of their responses to it.

“This was unprecedented at the United Nations,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said this morning. “This many world leaders coming together to discuss climate change.”

To the extent that good emerged from this summit, the work of thousands of individuals allowed it. But there is one who played a particularly remarkable role.

It’s not Barack Obama, despite his deft moves in the final hours to salvage some accord from the conference. Obama, for the most part, stepped on the Bella Center, leaving us in the shape of his enormous bootprint.

It’s not Ban Ki-Moon, whose skills as a mediator placated enough of the Accord’s final opponents to secure its ultimate approval. But Ban deserves a consolation prize:

“Myself I have slept only, just two hours in 48 hours now. I have not been to my hotel since yesterday morning. Without dinner and breakfast even,” he said. “I was able to convince some countries that were still having some reservations. I am very happy that I was able to play a role.”

It was not the Danes, Climate Minister Connie Hedagaard or Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, even though they made this impossible mission happen.

They brought together 45,000 people representing the entire world, made the trains, buses, phones, and wireless internet function smoothly, protected 119 heads of state not only at the Bella Center, but as they dispersed throughout the city, and fended off invading protesters, all without serious incident.

Their city modeled alternative energy, electric cars, green design, bicycles, all the staples of its progressive culture, but never boastfully. And it offset the summit’s carbon emissions with a project in Bangladesh.

For their hospitality and generosity, the Danes suffered more abuse at the hands of displeased delegates than any other party. They deserve the sympathetic Oscar.

But the trophy for salvaging something from Copenhagen goes to someone who anticipated months ago that extraordinary salvage was going to be the nature of the operation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not pursue a high profile at the conference. When he did appear he comported himself well, combining the passion of a Hugo Chavez with the imploring reason of an Al Gore. Imagine a reasonable Chavez or a passionate Gore.

But beyond that achievement–well beyond it–Sarkozy had anticipated precisely the nature of the difficulties that would be encountered here and he did more than anyone to create the conditions by which they might be overcome.

Here’s how Sarkozy’s role was explained by the president of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta Mills:

“When the Commonwealth heads of state met in Trinidad and Tobago (in November) something rather unique happened.

“We heard a delegation made up of the prime minister of the Kingdom of Denmark, the UN secretary general, and the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. They all were there. And they came to appeal to us to attend this conference in person, because we were made to believe, and I believe this is indeed the case, all the 27 leaders of the European Union were going to be present, and this was to underscore the importance they attached to this session.

“I’m not surprised that at the last commonwealth heads of state meeting it was stressed that the political heads should attend this conference. Now I see why.”

President Mills said the world’s heads of state “took a clue” from the commitment of European leaders, not from the U.S. or China.

Although Sarkozy worked in tandem with Ban and Rasmussen, he took point.

By assembling the largest summit of heads of state the world has known, dedicated to climate change, he not only assembled the people with the power to enact change, he submitted them to an education, and he tacitly secured their commitment to the task.

When President Obama originally announced he would attend the conference on Dec. 9, the day before his trip to Sweden to collect the Novel Peace Prize, Sarkozy tried to convince him to come at the end of the conference.

When that wasn’t working, Sarkozy prosecuted his argument in public:

“The commitments must be made at the highest level. Only the heads of state and government can take the major decisions which have to be made,” he told journalists after lobbying leaders of the 53-nation Commonwealth in Trinidad.

“If some heads of state want to come on the 9th and come back for the moment of decision, that’s very positive. But we have agreed: The decisive moment is December 17 and 18,” he repeated. “If some come at the beginning and others at the end, when will we be able to take decisions?”

Obama rescheduled his trip for the final day. And he salvaged the Copenhagen Accord in the final hours.

Robert Orr, the UN deputy secretary general for policy planning, underscored the importance of having world leaders present in the final days: “The authority of leaders cannot be matched,” he said, “their ability to get things done, their ability to see the big picture and not get stuck on small negotiating points.”

Sarkozy is not pleased with the outcome, but he said so with diplomatic understatement– “The text we have is not perfect” –and he announced another meeting in Bonn in six months time to commence la rédaction.

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