Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cop15: Binding agreement 'unlikely'

As world leaders arrived in Copenhagen Thursday, the Danish presidency of the climate summit in Copenhagen been seen to play down expectations of a comprehensive deal emerging from the meeting. While officials said progress could be made, an international agreement may have to wait until a 2010 meeting in Mexico, it has been suggested.

Talks are deadlocked at the climate summit with less than two days left to run. Developed and developing nations remain at odds as to who should cut emissions, how deep cuts should be, and how much aid should go to poorer countries. "We are fighting like mad and we haven't given up, but we will need help from world leaders. They must put their money where their mouth is. Otherwise it'll be very difficult," one source told the Danish newspaper Politiken. Meanwhile Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official, admitted Wednesday evening that negotiations had unexpectedly stalled and said that the next 24 hours would be crucial.

There have been small signs of progress in some quarters. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the meeting her country was prepared to work towards mobilising 100 billion U.S. dollars a year for developing countries. On Thursday, Clinton told delegates, "In the context of a strong accord in which all major economies pledge meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to those actions, the U.S. is prepared to work with other countries towards a goal of mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year to address the needs of developing countries." But she made it clear, as did Japan on Wednesday when announcing a specific figure for assistance, that the money was contingent on reaching a global deal here that met its criteria.

Clinton was only one of 130 world leaders expected to join the talks on Thursday. Also addressing the summit on Thursday was Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who said he feared "a triumph of form over substance" at the outcome of the UN climate summit. Others called on leaders to make the climate talks work and bring about a consensus. Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the summit to "summon up the greatest level of ambition" when he spoke to delegates. "The success of our endeavours depends on us forging a new alliance," he said. "In these few days in Copenhagen which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow self-interest to prevent a policy for human survival."

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to attend the final day of the summit on Friday, when world leaders will attempt to flesh out a strategy to deal with climate change after the end of 2012, when obligations run out under the landmark Kyoto Protocol. There had been some rumors circulating that President Obama might not attend, though these were dismissed by Hillary Clinton. "The President is planning to come tomorrow. Obviously we hope there will be something to come for," she said.

Developing countries, led by China, have accused host Denmark of a lack of transparency by suggesting language for the agreement without full consultation by all sides on the 194-nation summit. China told participants that it saw no chance of reaching an operational accord this week, an unnamed official told Reuters news agency. 

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has taken charge of the Wednesday-Friday segment involving heads of state and government. He took over the role after Danish minister Connie Hedegaard resigned as president of the UN climate change summit yesterday. Denmark said it was trying to simplify several complex draft negotiating texts to help the world leaders to agree on a deal. However many observers and media analysts say the process appears to be in disarray with nations refusing to agree with the Danish prime minister's demands that they should negotiate on a slimmed down text.

Containing emissions to a level associated with a temperature rise of no more than 2°C is a stated aim of the larger nations at the COP15, but the poorest and most vulnerable nations say emissions should be contained to a level associated with a temperature rise of 1°C or 1.5°C. The chance of reaching agreement on these issues seems unlikely at best. On a more promising note Japan has promised poorer nations 15 billion dollars over three years if a deal is made. The amount would be added to the 10.6 billion dollars pledged over three years by the European Union. Another pledge also came from a six-member group - Australia, France, Japan, Norway, the UK and U.S. - which will collectively commit 3.5 billion dollars over three years to combat deforestation.

The failure of leaders and delegates to come to any consensus led to much frustration within the Bella Center amongst NGOs and environmental activists. Some staged sit-in protests but were later ejected by security. NGOs have also complained that they have been unable to properly voice their concerns or discuss ideas with delegates due to restrictions on numbers. 

A member of one NGO that had travelled from China to attend the summit told tvnewswatch some of their party were refused entry. "Two of us just entered the Bella Center before the UN notice of not allowing in any NGOs with a secondary card," the NGO member said. "I and the fourth one were barred, unfortunately. However, I slipped in just when the policemen turned to another direction."

Security on Thursday was much tighter and a third card issued by the UN was required for attendees. Numbers had also been cut down to only 1,000. As heads of state arrive to sign any possible agreement, security has intensified to prevent any further trouble seen on Wednesday when protesters clashed with police.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China with additional reporting from worldnewsreview at the Cop15 in Copenhagen, Denmark

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