Few might have expected the UN Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen, which came to a close last weekend, to throw up a game-changer of a deal.
Yet, even lowered expectations could hardly stem the disappointment many people felt over the final outcome - a last-minute accord that was weaker than not only a legally binding treaty but also the expected "political" agreement.
Even so, the Copenhagen Accord represents a step forward, although not enough, in the battle against global warming.
The next UN-backed climate summit will take place a year from now in Mexico City, but there is no time to waste.
It is imperative that all nations act now to make the Copenhagen Accord a stepping-stone to a new climate treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The conference was widely touted as an important opportunity to boost international co-operation in combating climate change.
Two weeks of wrangling later, sharp divisions between the rich and poor nations over how to fight the fight have been laid bare.
It is clear now that developing and developed nations have different historical and emission responsibilities and vary in current emission levels due to different development stages.
Countries on both sides of the divide need to shoulder different burdens and obligations in the fight.
Concern over costs and impact have largely prevented developed countries from aggressively cutting greenhouse gas emissions and supporting poorer nations with adequate funds and technology.
Be that as it may, leaders who turned up at Copenhagen still deserve credit for inking a sub-optimal deal, rather than leaving with nothing at all.
Unsatisfactory as it is, the new accord represents an essential step forward in our response to the long-term challenge of climate change.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it, "this is just the beginning" of a process to craft a binding pact to reduce emissions.
This non-binding deal has explicitly recognized the "scientific view" that the world should limit warming to no more than 2 C.
This is important to drive home the message that global warming is real and that it must be avoided through effective reduction in emissions.
The accord is, however, no guarantee that another round of climate talks next year will lead to a new and binding treaty that will replace the all-important Kyoto Protocol.
Only when all countries unilaterally agree to fight climate change faster and on a war footing will consensus prevail. The international community would then be able to clinch a new deal that will help to save our planet.
(China Daily 12/21/2009 page4)