Copenhagen negotiators struggle to save talks

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Copenhagen's mayor Ritt Bjerregaard and Toronto's mayor David Miller, during the opening conference at the Future City Pavilion on City Hall Square in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Dec. 15th, 2009. The mayors of some leading cities explained how their cities are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Jens Dige)

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Copenhagen's mayor Ritt Bjerregaard and Toronto's mayor David Miller, during the opening conference at the Future City Pavilion on City Hall Square in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Dec. 15th, 2009. The mayors of some leading cities explained how their cities are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Jens Dige)

BBC
December 15, 2009

Climate change negotiators have been working through the night in Copenhagen to try to rescue plans for a global agreement from collapse.

Heads of state start to appear in the Danish capital later in the day, ahead of a hoped-for signing on Friday.

But several issues remain to be solved ahead of the summit’s climax.

Correspondents say suspicions among poor countries that rich ones are ganging up on them – which prompted a walk-out on Monday – remain strong.

They say that with the end of the conference looming, the general hope is that minds will increasingly become concentrated and real concessions emerge from both sides.

In one hopeful sign, China has indicated it will not accept any money from a fund being set up by the West to help poorer nations tackle climate change.

A senior Chinese source told BBC News that China will not accept a single dollar.

The possibility had upset many in the United States, who feel Beijing is now well-enough off to pay to clean up its own act.

Chinese deputy foreign minister He Yafei said in Copenhagen that Beijing was committed to achieving a good outcome.

China’s willingness to make a deal pleases the rich West, but alarms some poor countries, says the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

They fear China will strike a compromise with other big players that will not be strict enough to protect the most vulnerable nations from climate change, our correspondent adds.

Deep distrust

Developing nations staged a five-hour walkout on Monday, only returning after their key demand – separate talks on the Kyoto Protocol – was met.

The bloc, which represents countries vulnerable to climate change, has been adamant that rich nations must commit to emission cuts beyond 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol.

They have been arguing for a “twin track” approach, whereby countries with existing targets under the Kyoto Protocol (all developed nations except the US) stay under that umbrella, with the US and major developing economies making their carbon pledges under a new protocol.

But the EU and the developed world in general has promoted the idea of an entirely new agreement, replacing the protocol.

Talks were halted most of the day, until conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark assured developing countries she was not trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol.

‘Catastrophic failure’

The White House said President Barack Obama, who is due to address the conference on Friday, was “committed to pursuing an accord that requires countries to take meaningful steps”.

But spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged there was a great deal of work to be done.

“There’s no doubt that there are issues that will remain outstanding for quite some time,” Mr Gibbs said.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, speaking to reporters in New York before he was to leave for Copenhagen, warned that “time is running out”.

“If everything is left to leaders to resolve at the last minute, we risk having a weak deal or no deal at all. And this would be a failure of potentially catastrophic consequence.”

Campaign group Greenpeace said the summit had five days “to avert climate chaos”.

Emissions targets so far offered by Western leaders such as Mr Obama amounted to “peanuts”, the group added.

© 2009 BBC

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