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. Fury erupts at UN climate talks

Campaigners denounce 'abject failure' at climate summit
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 19, 2009 - Environmental campaigners on Saturday branded the Copenhagen climate summit an abject failure, saying it made progress on financing the battle against climate change but little else. US President Barack Obama announced the deal at the end of the 12-day, UN-led meeting in the Danish capital, calling an agreement among key leaders "unprecedented" but conceding that it was not enough. Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, called Copenhagen "an abject failure." "By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world's poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates," he said. "The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations."

Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, said the agreement contained so many loopholes "you could fly an airplane through it -- Airforce One, for example". "The only thing we can agree on is the science. Everything else is a fudge, everything else is a fraud, and it must be called as such," he said. Naidoo added that the outcome of what was intended as a planet-saving deal should be a "wake-up call" for civil society. "We have to put our leaders under much more pressure than they have been," he said.

The Sierra Club, a leading US environmental group, said that the blame lay largely with the US Senate which has yet to approve legislation backed by Obama to curb carbon emissions in the world's largest economy. "President Obama and the rest of the world paid a steep price here in Copenhagen because of obstructionism in the United States Senate," said Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director. "That a deal was reached at all is testament to President Obama's leadership -- all the more remarkable because of the very weak hand he was dealt."

Pierre Radanne, an advisor to African countries on climate change who is a veteran observer of the negotiation process, told AFP: "It is a breakdown of the United Nations." Antonio Hill of Oxfam was also scornful. "It can't even be called a deal. It can be called a 'copout' -- It has no deadline for an agreement in 2010, no certainty that it will be legally binding," he told journalists. "We know that this is going to deliver much anger, much disappointment, much outrage that all these leaders of the world have gathered to deliver just this." But Hill still looked for a silver lining. "It may deliver a glimmer of hope that countries can still come together, that the door is still open to deliver a truly fair, ambitious and binding agreement," he said.

The WWF environmental group voiced concern that the Copenhagen accord does not bind nations to action. "A gap between the rhetoric and reality could cost millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities," said Kim Carstensen, the leader of the WWF's Global Climate Initiative. But he said the pledges by individual countries could lead to more action in the future. "We are disappointed but remain hopeful," he said. When pushed to explain why NGOs were reluctant to call on delegates from poor countries to reject the deal, Naidoo said it was a no-win situation. "A bad deal, and no deal are both disastrous and catastrophic choices," he said. "We are caught in the middle."
by Staff Writers
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 19, 2009
Fury erupted at the Copenhagen climate talks Saturday over a draft accord agreed by a select group of leaders, with several poor nations saying it amounted to a coup against the United Nations.

"You are going to endorse this coup d'etat against the United Nations," Venezuela's representative Claudia Salerno Caldera told Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the conference's chairman, in a speech from the floor.

"Those of us who wish to speak have to make a point of order by cutting our hands and drawing blood," she added, before opening a red-stained palm.

Tuvalu's Ian Fry, whose country is one of the most at risk from global warming, said the agreement amounted to Biblical betrayal.

"It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future," he said to applause in the chamber.

"Our future is not for sale. I regret to inform you that Tuvalu cannot accept this document."

Rasmussen, looking uneasy in his chair, faced a barrage of criticism during the highly-charged session which was convened several hours after US President Barack Obama said he had reached a political agreement with around two dozen fellow leaders, including from China and India.

Cuba accused Obama of "behaving like an emperor," adding that the Havana government would not accept the draft declaration.

The plenary session was then suspended after Costa Rica demanded explanations for key text that had disappeared from a draft resolution while the leaders' wrangling had unfolded.

That text said countries would strive for a "legally-binding" agreement in Mexico City at the end of 2010 -- a position supported especially by Russia, Canada and Japan in order to lock the United States into a treaty.

Green delegates said they suspected the vital words had been deleted as a quid pro quo to placate the United States.

Obama flew out of Copenhagen late Friday before any decision among the 194 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on whether to accept the draft agreement.

The agreement contains a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important stepping stones -- global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 -- for getting there.

earlier related report
Climate deal meets furious reception
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 19, 2009 - Fury erupted Saturday at a gruelling summit in Copenhagen on rolling back climate change as poor nations took to task a draft deal whose supporters even said was less than they sought.

US President Barack Obama said an "unprecedented breakthrough" had been reached among day-long meetings involving about two dozen presidents and prime ministers gathered in Copenhagen.

Obama admitted the so-called Copenhagen Accord did not go far enough, but characterised its provisions as "meaningful," arguing they provided a tool for ratcheting up action on greenhouse gases.

But hours after Obama and other key leaders flew home, delegates from 194 nations gathered to approve the text and met a raucous response from several developing states that resented not being part of the closed-door discussions.

Venezuela's representative Claudia Salerno Caldera held up what appeared to be a bloody palm, saying that she had cut her hand in an effort to gain the attention of conference chair Denmark.

"You are going to endorse this coup d'etat against the United Nations," she said as an all-night session approached dawn on its 13th day.

Ian Fry of Tuvalu, a tiny Pacific island whose very existence is threatened by climate change, said the agreement amounted to Biblical betrayal and vowed to defeat it.

"It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future," he said to applause in the chamber.

The agreement set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important stepping stones -- global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 -- for getting there.

Nor did it spell out a year by which emissions should peak, a demand made by rich countries that was fiercely opposed by China, or insist on tough compliance mechanisms to ensure nations honoured their promises.

Somewhat more successfully, it spelt out some details for how poor countries should be financially aided to shore up their defences against rising seas, water stress, floods and storms.

Rich countries pledged to commit 30 billion dollars in "short-track" finance for the 2010-2012 period, including 11 billion from Japan, 10.6 billion from the European Union and 3.6 billion dollars from the United States.

They also set a goal of "jointly mobilising" 100 billion dollars by 2020, although details were sketchy.

The US president said before leaving Copenhagen that what had been billed as one the most important summits since World War II would be the starting gun for a much stronger effort to combat global warming.

"Today we have made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen," Obama told reporters.

"For the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change."

He added: "Going forward, we are going to have to build on the momentum we have achieved here in Copenhagen. We have come a long way but we have much further to go."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the deal was the only one that could be reached after the summit had revealed deep rifts between rich and poor countries, and within those two blocs themselves.

"The agreement is not perfect but it's the best one possible," Sarkozy told reporters, adding that another global warming summit would be hosted by Germany in mid-2010.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted she viewed the result "with mixed emotions" but added that "the only alternative to the agreement would have been a failure."

The deal was hammered out in talks between Obama and the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa as well as key European countries, diplomats said.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that talks had been close to collapse on seven occasions, but were ultimately saved by sharp deal-making in which Obama played a lead role.

China had bristled at anything called "verification" of its plan to cut the intensity of its carbon emissions, seeing it as an infringement of sovereignty and saying that rich nations bore primary responsibility for global warming.

Disagreements between the China and United States -- the world's No. 1 and 2 carbon polluters -- had been at the core of the divisions holding up a deal.

The emergence of a deal came at the end of a day in which several draft agreements were knocked back, with leaders themselves taking over the task of redrafting the exact wording of three pages of text.

Different versions of the document showed the leaders particularly split over whether to fix a firm date for finalising a legally binding treaty in 2010, and a commitment to slashing global carbon emissions in half by 2050.

The agreement was met with dismay by campaigners, who said it was weak, non-binding and sold out the poor.

"By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world's poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates," said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, calling the outcome "an abject failure".

"The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations."

Antonio Hill of Oxfam charged: "It can't even be called a deal. It has no deadline for an agreement in 2010 and there is no certainty that it will be a legally binding agreement."

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After gruelling summit, a contested deal emerges on climate
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 19, 2009
A core group of world leaders clinched a draft accord for rolling back climate change after gruelling talks in Copenhagen, but campaigners early Saturday branded the new-born deal a betrayal. US President Barack Obama said an "unprecedented breakthrough" had been reached among day-long meetings involving about two dozen presidents and prime ministers gathered in Copenhagen. Obama admitted the so-called Copenhagen Accord did not go far enough, but characterised its provisions as "meaningful," arguing they provided a tool for ratcheting up action on greenhouse gases. ... read more

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