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Australian PM warns Copenhagen talks face 'failure'

Copenhagen: Climate protests turn violent
Copenhagen, Denmark (UPI) Dec 14, 2009 - Copenhagen has turned into somewhat of a battleground as climate activists clashed with police at several demonstrations over the weekend. The end of the world seemed near Monday in Copenhagen. Four horsemen of the Apocalypse rode through the streets of this Danish city. For those who are now on the verge of panic, calm down: The riders were "only" part of a Greenpeace protest, but they nevertheless meant to warn delegates at the U.N. climate conference that failure to broker an ambitious climate protection deal at the U.N. climate conference could have catastrophic effects for the world. Greenpeace and other organizations have staged several demonstrations over the past few days, with tens of thousands of activists taking the streets of Copenhagen Saturday and Sunday to demand strong action to stop climate change. The activists marched from the city center to the conference venue in a largely peaceful demonstration; however, toward the end of Saturday's march, masked protesters threw stones through stock exchange and Foreign Ministry buildings in the city.

Danish riot police moved in and cut off a large portion of the protesters, detaining around 1,000 of them. They were held in what critics say were inhumane conditions -- some of them forced to sit on the icy ground for hours -- but have since been released. The Environmental News Service reports that "some people have spent five hours handcuffed to benches without food, water or access to toilet facilities. Several people fainted while handcuffed in the corridor for hours. Volunteers from the people's kitchens requested to be able to provide food for the hundreds of prisoners, but were refused by police authorities." Police Sunday broke up what authorities said was an unauthorized demonstration, detaining around 200 activists in the process. A Danish law allows police to arrest and hold protesters for 12 hours without court orders in case authorities feel the demonstration could turn violent. The law has been harshly criticized by NGOs.

Confrontation continued Monday, when unknown individuals torched three cars owned and branded by Danish utility Dong Energy in the city center -- just a few hours before a demonstration near the company headquarters. Dong is controversial with climate activists because it runs coal-fired power stations. The demonstrations happened halfway through the Dec. 7-18 summit attended by some 15,000 representatives from 192 countries. U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and more than 100 other world leaders are expected to arrive here later this week to try to broker a climate-protection deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world's major emitters -- including the United States, India and China -- as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Dec 14, 2009
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Monday warned that troubled global climate talks were at risk of "failure" and urged world leaders to adopt a more flexible approach.

Rudd, who is due to arrive at the summit on Wednesday, said key polluters like China and India had made positive statements but as the talks enter their second week, a consensus looked difficult to achieve.

"There's a big risk that we will have conflicting views between developed and developing countries," Rudd said. "And there is always a risk of failure here."

Rudd, who will be a deal-brokering "friend of the chair", said it would be difficult to reach a "consensus up the middle" given the often opposed positions of developed and developing nations.

"I think, though, to land a strong agreement in Copenhagen we are going to have to see more compromise all round -- from the big developed economies as well as the emerging economies," the prime minister told Sky News.

"We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

Rudd said targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, financing and verification would be major points of discussion at the talks designed to reach a landmark deal that can be endorsed on Friday by over 100 world leaders.

He said Australia had a vested interest in keeping rising temperatures in check because as the planet's hottest and driest continent it will feel the impact of global warming first and hardest.

"We have a fundamental national interest at stake in securing the strongest possible global agreement -- because it affects Australia," Rudd said.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to reduce greenhouse gases responsible for warming the earth and prevent dangerous climate change.

It is hoped the conference will produce pledges to curb carbon emissions from participating nations and establish a way to provide billions of dollars in help to poor countries facing urgent problems dealt by climate change.

Rudd has vowed to introduce a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme which could cut Australia's greenhouse gas pollution by up to 25 percent but has been thwarted by a conservative opposition which has twice rejected the legislation.

The prime minister, who won office in 2007 in an election in which climate change was a key issue, has been forced to head to Copenhagen without parliamentary approval for the initiative.

Speaking to journalists ahead of his departure, Rudd warned that without action Australia would face harsher droughts, more bushfires and coastal inundations and the loss of agriculture and natural assets.

"The responsible course of action is to bring about the strongest set of policies at home through a carbon pollution reduction scheme and the strongest possible agreement around the world, so that we can cool the planet," he said.

"That's our mission in Copenhagen. It will be a very tough set of negotiations," he said in Canberra.

"The outcome is far from certain, but we owe it to our kids and our grandkids to give this our every effort to bring about the best solution for Australia and for the world."

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Violence mars Copenhagen climate protests
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 12, 2009
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Copenhagen on Saturday calling for tough action from the UN climate conference, after police arrested some 400 rioters at the start of the protest. Organisers of the rally had repeatedly urged the crowd to remain calm and friendly before the march began, and the speeches were dominated by calls for social justice and critiques of global capital ... read more

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