They were right. I was wrong. But who's cynical now? With an accord that from the European perspective looks so much like failure and the more than 12 hours that were needed even to adopt this flimsiest of declarations, it's hard to be optimistic about the future.
But my American friends feel differently. What did you expect, they ask me? Did you really think Obama would show up and announce a 30% emission reduction target? Does Europe realise to what extent he is already sticking his neck out just by proposing a 17% cut below 2005 levels?
This proposal is at the very upper end of the reduction range in a draft US climate bill currently stuck in the senate. It needs 60 votes to go through and it's got about 42 right now. Many of those other 18 wouldn't necessarily vote for it even if the economy was breezing along, I'm told. The Washington journalists are not at all sure it'll get through.
But Obama's been given some fresh ammo here in Copenhagen they say. He's got an accord to which he can point and say "look, China's committing to action too". Look at the US environmental NGOs, the journalists say to me and see how they've reacted.
And, much to my surprise, when I go to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of America's leading conservation groups, I find a press release dated to yesterday in which NRDC president Frances Beinecke says:
"We have taken a vital first step towards curbing climate change. For the first time in history, the US is joining with other major emitters to take real action against global warming. Real cuts in carbon pollution. Real American jobs at home. Real measures to make clear which countries make good on their vows. And real help for the world's most vulnerable people exposed to droughts, famine and storms made worse by climate change."This reads quite differently from Friends of the Earth Europe's reaction from the same day:
"Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Rich countries have condemned millions of the world's poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates. The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations. We are disgusted by the failure of rich countries to commit to the emissions reductions they know are needed, especially the US, which is the world's largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases."UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, who has just delivered the final briefing of the Copenhagen climate summit, didn’t welcome the accord with outstretched arms but didn't dismiss it as a disaster either.
His main criticism is that it is not an agreement that is legally binding. It is "a letter of intent". But this he hopes to fix at COP16 in Mexico City a year from now. The American journalists here are inclined to be more patient. This is the beginning of the beginning, they say, and while it may take time, the important thing is we've got going.