After initially expressing clear disappointment in the outcome of the conference, Merkel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Copenhagen was “a first step towards a new world climate order – nothing more but also nothing less.”
“Anyone who is now just badmouthing Copenhagen is engaged in the business of putting on the brakes, rather than going forward,” she said.
The Copenhagen accord, signed by about 30 countries at the summit, sets a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, but does not specify how that will be done and sets no emissions targets for 2020 or 2050.
Environmentalists and many political leaders have savaged the lukewarm outcome.
Merkel and others clearly pointed to China as the main obstacle, with the developing giant, which recently overtook the United States as the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases, refusing to commit to specific carbon reduction goals.
Immediately after the accord was struck, Merkel pointedly said she had ''mixed feelings'' about it.
But on Sunday she was putting a more positive face on the situation, saying Germany, which will host the next stage of world climate talks in June or July 2010, had a special responsibility to look forward.
“Copenhagen must now be built upon. Germany will do that at the conference in Bonn in the middle of next year.''
Opposition Social Democrats leader Sigmar Gabriel called the outcome at Copenhagen “a disgrace” and “a catastrophe.”
“Heads of state and government put the future of our children and grandchildren on the line,” he told reporters in Magdeburg on Saturday.
And in an interview with Bild am Sonntag, he called on the European Union to stick to its ambitious carbon-cutting goals of 30 percent and demanded Merkel aim for a 40 percent cut.
“The European Union must stick to its promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent,” he said. “Only by doing so can the EU win back lost trust and make a new start as quickly as possible on a binding agreement.”
Greens chairwoman Claudia Roth said she was stunned and angry.
“Copenhagen is a failed summit,” she said.
The 193 heads of state and government who attended the summit were guilty of the worst kind of crime, “namely the betrayal of the future of our children and our planet,” she said.