copenhagen-wd-cp-7797758

Delegates talk to each other prior to a plenary session at the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen Friday. ((Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press))

South Africa has joined a chorus of condemnation for the failure of the Copenhagen summit to produce a legally binding agreement to combat climate change, even though the country helped draft the final accord.

South Africa's environment minister Buyelwa Sonjica and two of the country's negotiators put part of the blame on host nation Denmark for creating an atmosphere of distrust amid suspicions that Danish representatives were plotting to force their own position on other nations.

The conference got off to a shaky start when a draft proposal from Denmark was leaked. The Danish document suggested that rich nations could cut fewer emissions while the developing world should face tougher limits on greenhouse gases, prompting African activists to storm out of the meeting room and stage a protest.

Danish officials said it was simply one of many "working" papers making the rounds at the summit.

South African negotiator Joanne Yawitch also said the Danes unveiled a draft at the 11th hour that Yawitch said was "seriously problematic."

Accord not legally binding

She said negotiators needed to edit late into the night to come up with a document South Africa found more balanced, but she felt substantive changes to the Danish draft were viewed as unwelcome.

The three-page Copenhagen accord, put forward by a U.S.-led group of five nations — including China, India, Brazil and South Africa — recognizes that an increase in average global temperature should be kept to 2 C, the threshold that UN scientists say is needed to avert serious climate change.

But the accord is not legally binding and has no long-term global targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts. It also promises to deliver $30 billion US in aid over the next three years to help developing nations reduce emissions.

Although the agreement was not formally approved, the conference president said that delegates at a late-night plenary session agreed to "take note" of the document, or recognize that it exists.

Outcome 'not acceptable'

Sonjica said the outcome was "definitely not acceptable. It's disappointing," she said.

Since the Copenhagen summit, a number of representatives from countries have condemned the talks as a failure, and have been quick to blame other countries.

Several countries, including Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Sudan, called the accord unacceptable and said it had not been reached through a proper process.

British Environment Minister Ed Miliband wrote an editorial criticizing China's role in "hijacking" talks, and China fired back on Tuesday, saying the comments were designed to sow discord among developing nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the comments were an attempt to "shirk the obligations of developed countries to their developing counterparts and foment discord among developing countries, but the attempt was doomed to fail."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon defended the results of the talks as a significant step toward a binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is not perfect at this time, but it was a very important and very significant step forward," he said.

Ban urged all countries to sign on to the accord and work toward making it a binding agreement next year.

With files from The Associated Press