Just when you thought things were over… Last night, the media made a big hoopla about a supposed "Copenhagen Accord" that President Obama helped negotiate and heralded it as the final result of Copenhagen climate talks. They were wrong.

As last night went on, it was clear that the entire world wasn’t going to back down in the face of bullying from a few powerful countries — the picture in this post is from a protest that hundreds of us joined at 1:00 AM last night outside the Bella Center where the talks were taking place. At 3:00 AM, Prime Minister Rasumussen of Denmark, who under official UN rules acts as chair of the conference, tried to rush the accord through as a new political deal without gaining consensus from the assembled countries. Even as Rasmussen banged his gavel, Tuvalu buzzed in and demanded to speak. Looking exhausted, Tuvalu’s lead negotiator Ian Fry, spoke clearly and forcefully: this deal is a sham, our survival is not negotiable, we refuse to sign at this point.

Tuvalu’s remarks unleashed another few hours of debate. With high emotions running on all sides, country after country expressed their frustration with attempts by the US and it’s coalition of polluters to subvert the UN process. Yet, in the end, it was clear that many small countries felt like they were backed into a corner and had no choice but to accept the agreement as it stood. As President Mohamed Nasheed of the Malvides said, "I will be the first to be unsatisfied with this document. But it is a starting point. This document allows us to continue talks and come to a legally binding treaty. I ask you all: please do not delete this document." 

That’s by no means the consensus position: many developing countries and activists feel the best strategy would be to call the entire process a sham and refuse to come to any agreement, at all. At this point, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure where I stand.

What’s clear is this — the talks aren’t over yet. Exactly what the "Copenhagen Accord" means is important. Not because it will have a major effect on emissions — it’s clear now that no strong action will come out of these talks — but because the outcome of the final hours in Copenhagen will play a large role in shaping the structure and power of the UN in the future. 

What we saw in here in Copenhagen was an effort on the part of a few rich countries, lead by the US, to undermine the United Nations process. To sideline not just civil society, but over 100 nations, and come up to an agreement on their own. The fact that they didn’t succeed — that they’re still debating at the UN, that poor countries are still standing strong and fighting hard — is an incredible testament to the movement you have helped build around the world. You helped show that this debate wasn’t just about the US and a few big polluters, it is about all of us — like these children in Ghana, for example: 

The UN is by no means perfect. If anything, these two-weeks in Copenhagen have shown the fragility of the system and just how easy it is for a few obstructionist countries to undermine the talks. Is it corrupt beyond repair? Is it worth scrapping? I don’t think so. And I’d caution those who are tempted to trash the United Nations to think carefully about the implications that has for smaller countries who may have no other venue to make their voices heard and negotiate for their survival.

As Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said this morning, "Collective action is the only effective action." He was talking about the UN, but he could just as well have been talking about us. As we figure out exactly what happened here in Copenhagen, we’ll surely hold on to the lesson that has served us along: when we take action together, when we don’t act individually as nations, but collectively as people, we can make real change.