BEIJING — China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, lauded Sunday the outcome of a historic U.N. climate conference that ended with a nonbinding agreement urging — but not requiring — major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the international climate talks that brought more than 110 leaders together in Copenhagen produced "significant and positive" results.
The Obama administration on Sunday also defended the agreement as a "great step forward" — despite widespread disappointment among environmentalists that the pact does not include mandatory targets that would draw sanctions.
"Nobody says that this is the end of the road. The end of the road would have been the complete collapse of those talks. This is a great step forward," White House adviser David Axelrod told CNN's State of the Union.
Disputes between rich and poor countries and between the world's biggest carbon polluters — China and the United States — dominated the two-week conference. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand action to cool an overheating planet.
The meeting ended Saturday after a 31-hour negotiating marathon, with delegates accepting a U.S.-brokered compromise. The so-called Copenhagen Accord calls for reducing emissions to keep temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. It gives billions of dollars in climate aid to poor nations but does not require the world's major polluters to make deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's disappointing, that we didn't get binding reduction targets," said Danish ex-climate minister Connie Hedegaard, who led the negotiations in Copenhagen. "We've worked very hard to achieve that."
But Hedegaard said the conference was successful in the sense that developing countries are "acknowledging their responsibility for getting the world on track in the fight against climate change."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he would work with member states to convert the commitments into a global, legally binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010.