Around the world, governments, journalists, scientists, NGOs, business, academics, people who are interested in the future of the planet, are analysing what has just happened in Copenhagen. But some of the headline outcomes are already clear.

The governments of the world could and should have done better. There was an ambitious and effective deal to be done. We should have agreed how much more carbon we could afford to release into the atmosphere and how we were going to keep our carbon output within that limit. We should have set ourselves up for a legal agreement on these points. With sufficient will, we could have done it. But some countries were not yet ready. In the end they were a break on the ambition of those that were. We will all live with the consequences of that.

Copenhagen was nevertheless a big step in the right direction.

The basis of discussion at Copenhagen was the robust consensus among scientists. Governments accepted that the world was getting warmer, that people were causing the world to get warmer and that we needed to act quickly if we were to slow down and stop this trend. They acknowledged that allowing temperatures to keep rising would have catastrophic consequences. They acknowledged that a two-degree temperature rise was as much as we could tolerate and that even this carried major risks to our future well-being.

Leaders at Copenhagen agreed that all countries needed to take action on climate change and needed to show each other what they were doing.

Big financial packages were agreed to support action, particularly in developing countries, to limit climate change: as much as $100 billion each year by 2020.

And Britain and Australia worked closely together, as we have throughout the climate negotiations and as we do in so many other areas.

The overall effectiveness of Copenhagen will depend on what happens next. We need all countries to sign up to the Copenhagen accord. We need to keep the momentum towards an ambitious and legally binding treaty. We need to establish a framework for financing. Most important, though, is that the major players put national mitigation targets on the table and that these go far enough to stop global warming. We do not have the luxury of time. We need big carbon reductions and we need them quickly. We are working hard within the European Union for a high EU target. We are hoping others, including Australia, will match that effort.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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