Do or die for COP 17, says Africa
Durban - It is "do or die" day for negotiators at the COP 17 climate change conference in Durban, Africa Group chair Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu said on Friday.
The head of the 54-nation bloc, which includes SA, told journalists the pace of negotiations to stop the world slipping into a situation where global temperatures rise more than 2°C was "not the best".
Scientists warn that if greenhouse gas emissions continue as they are, the world faces catastrophic consequences in the form of extreme weather, soaring temperatures, and rising sea levels.
Politicians and senior officials at the international high-level talks reportedly haggled into the early hours of Friday morning.
So far, they have failed to strike a deal on either an extension to the Kyoto Protocol, or the formal establishment of the Green Climate Fund, two items on the Africa Group's bottom line for the conference.
A senior UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) official, who declined to be named, said at 12:00 on Friday that the talks might go on well into Saturday.
Mpanu-Mpanu said his group wished to see the Durban conference become a "milestone" in the climate change process.
Striking an optimistic tone, he said the Africa Group believed it was "more than possible" for the conference to deliver concrete results.
Asked whether it had been "hard enough" on countries that were hanging back, he said: "If you are too rigid, you become irrelevant. They leave you on the side of the road."
At an earlier briefing on Friday, the EU said an "agreement [on the Kyoto Protocol] is within reach".
Several nations, including Brazil and SA, appear to have lined up behind the EU's so-called "road map" plan for a legally binding extension to the Kyoto Protocol, with an implementation date of 2015 or 2017.
However, the EU is insisting that India and China sign up if the deal is to work.
On the Green Climate Fund, Mpanu-Mpanu said the Africa Group viewed the $100bn the fund was meant to deliver to poor countries by 2020, as "not a ceiling, [but] a floor".
Asked what he thought of the EU's "all or nothing" insistence on the inclusion of India and China in any possible new treaty or accord, Mpanu-Mpanu said this was "not very constructive".
He accused the EU of playing "hard ball" and described their negotiators' body language as "aggressive".
African countries, among the world's most threatened when it came to climate change, could not afford any delay, he said.