Climate talks face uphill battle despite funding pledges

2009-12-17 10:56

UN climate talks move into the final two-day straight today

blighted by bitter wrangling that could wreck efforts to draw up a sweeping pact

to combat global warming.

As world leaders began descending on Copenhagen, wealthy nations

gave the fraught negotiations a shot in the arm yesterday pledging billions of

rands to bankroll the climate war.

But as frustration mounted about the slow pace of the high-stakes

talks, police used tear gas and clubs to beat back crowds of demonstrators who

tried to march on the summit venue on the outskirts of the Danish capital.

Negotiators from 194 nations have been meeting for 10 days seeking

to forge a strategy to head off potentially catastrophic global warming and help

the most vulnerable nations but have become bogged down in wrangling between the

two top polluters China and the United States and rows between rich and


After a day marked by finger-pointing, Britain’s climate minister

Ed Miliband said he feared a deal could slip away, declaring that the talks were

at a “very dangerous point.”

“People can kill this process, kill the agreement with process

argument,” Miliband said.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the talks were proceeding

“at a snail’s pace” and played down hopes of striking a deal.

“These are very hard negotiations,” he added. “This will probably

be one of the largest concentrations of heads of government at any time in

history, but the challenges we face are among the largest we’ve faced in history

as well.”

Providing a chink of light, Japan promised to stump up a whopping

¥1.75 trillion (R146 billion) for developing nations to fight climate change –

if a comprehensive deal is reached at Copenhagen.

It was also one of six countries – along with Australia, Britain,

France, Norway and the United States – that said they would set up a fund to

fight the loss of forests, a leading source of the rising temperatures that

scientists warn will cause droughts, plagues and storms if unchecked.

“Japan as a country takes very seriously its responsibility in the

international community,” environment minister Sakihito Ozawa said as he

announced the biggest financial offer yet for climate change.

Europe has already said it would give €

7.2 billion (R77.4?billion) towards an envisioned fund worth

$30?billion (R225?billion) to help developing nations over the three years from


The United States has yet to announce a contribution, although the

White House has said it will offer a “fair share.”

In a joint statement, the six governments also said they would

collectively dedicate $3.5 billion from 2010 to 2012 in what they hoped would be

just the starting point for a deforestation fund.

The announcements were intended to provide fresh momentum as

delegates feared an overwhelming amount of work remained to seal a deal ahead of

the summit’s finale on Friday when around 120 world leaders are due in


Developing countries, led by top polluter China, accused host

Denmark of a lack of transparency by suggesting language for the agreement

without full consultation.

“There’s a group of countries who think they are better than us in

the South, in the Third World,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who

railed against “the imperial dictatorship” of the West.

The leaders of Bangladesh and Nepal pleaded for the summit to be

ambitious, warning they faced some of global warming’s worst ravages.

“Bangladesh’s greenhouse gas contribution is negligible, but it is

one of its worst victims,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.

Tensions also flared outside, where police used clubs and tear gas

to stop some 2?500 activists who tried to march on the tightly guarded Bella


Police said they rounded up about 260 demonstrators, some of whom

clashed again with the guards of their makeshift jail in a former beer


The summit climaxes Friday when the leaders, including US President

Barack Obama, try to lay out a strategy to deal with climate change after the

end of 2012, when obligations run out under the landmark Kyoto Protocol.

Obama has offered to cut US carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 over a

2005 benchmark, a figure that aligns with legislation put before Congress but is

well below pledges by the European Union and Japan.


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