Walkouts heighten fears of climate treaty failure
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 15, 2009
Negotiators worked through the night Tuesday to prevent a UN climate summit from ending in catastrophic failure after developing nations staged a five-hour walkout and China accused the West of trickery.
As the White House said Barack Obama wants a deal that imposes "meaningful steps" to combat global warming, ministers admitted they had to start making giant strides before 120 heads of state arrived for the summit's climax Friday.
But their hopes were hit when Africa led a boycott by developing nations of working groups, only returning after securing guarantees the summit would not sideline talks about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
That core emissions-curbing treaty ties rich countries that have ratified it to binding emissions curbs, but not developing nations.
It does not include the United States, which says the Protocol is unfair as the binding targets do not apply to developing giants that are already huge emitters of greenhouse gases.
The walkout delivered another blow to the summit, which has already been marred by spats between China and the United States.
The White House said President Obama, who is due to address the conference on Friday, was "committed to pursuing an accord that requires countries to take meaningful steps," but 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," spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
In Copenhagen, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country is the holder of the revolving EU presidency, said everyone was aware the clock was ticking.
"We are running against time. The world has waited long enough," he said.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, speaking to reporters in New York before he was to leave for Copenhagen, also 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."
In an apparent concession, China said it might not take a share of any Western funding for emerging nations to fight climate change.
But in a pointer to the tensions backstage, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said China would not be the fall guy if there were a fiasco.
"I know people will say if there is no deal that China is to blame. This is a trick played by the developed countries. They have to look at their own position and can't use China as an excuse," he told the Financial Times.
The G77 group of developing nations said they were being excluded from key negotiations by the conference chair Denmark.
"We are faced with a process in which we have no hand. We are very concerned," Bernadita de Castro Muller, coordinator of the G77, told reporters, charging that the process was "totally undemocratic, totally untransparent".
From Brussels, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso voiced fears of a failure.
"How are we going to look on Friday or Saturday if there are more than 100 heads of state and government from all over the world and that what we say to the world is that it was not possible to come to an agreement?" he said.
Campaigners were even blunter, with Greenpeace saying the summit had five days "to avert climate chaos". Emissions targets so far offered by Western leaders such as Obama amounted to "peanuts," the group added.
Danish police meanwhile Monday tear-gassed and arrested "between 150 and 200" demonstrators who had set alight barricades outside a giant Copenhagen squat.
Demonstrators threw petrol bombs at police who tried to move in and put out the fires, who responded by launching tear gas and entering the Christiania refuge with dogs to make the arrests.
The summit's daunting goal is to tame greenhouse gases -- the invisible by-product derived mainly from the burning of coal, oil and gas that traps the Sun's heat and warms the atmosphere.
Scientists say that without dramatic action within the next decade, Earth will be on course for warming that will inflict drought, flood, storms and rising sea levels, translating into hunger and misery for many millions.
The stakes were underlined when a new UN report said that some 58 million people have been affected by 245 natural calamities so far this year, more than 90 percent of them weather events amplified by climate change.
And climate guru Al Gore warned Monday that the record melting of glaciers worldwide could deprive more than a billion people of access to fresh water.
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Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 14, 2009
The spectre of failure loomed Monday over the UN climate summit, with China accusing wealthy nations of "playing tricks", as the marathon talks in Copenhagen entered their crucial final phase. As environment ministers haggled behind closed doors, some of the biggest players gave a glimpse of the size of the divide that needs to be bridged between rich and poor nations when some 120 leaders ... read more
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