World leaders down to the wire on climate deal

2009-12-18 10:23

World leaders worked down to the wire on Friday to forge a global

climate pact after days of acrimonious negotiations and warnings that failure

would have catastrophic consequences for the planet.

Just hours before the final summit in Copenhagen, leaders and

ministers from about 30 countries hammered out the outline of a draft political

accord on how to contain global warming and help poor countries cope with the


Fear of failure has dogged the talks for days as disputes on

emissions targets between top polluters China and the United States, procedural

wrangling and complaints that poor nations were being sidelined clouded hopes of

a deal.

“We tried to find an umbrella political accord, if you like,” said

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the rotating presidency of

the European Union, after the delegates worked through the night on the


“We tried to advance the main points and asked the ’sherpas’ to

work on the text through the night so we can discuss them,” he told


Advisers have resumed work to craft a document that could be

presented to US President Barack Obama and another 120 or so world leaders in

Copenhagen and then transformed into a binding treaty within six months.

“We’ve had a very constructive dialogue,” said Danish Prime

Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, but cautioned: “We’re not there yet at


The declaration will likely call for preventing a rise in global

temperatures of more than 2.0° Celsius compared to pre-industrial times,

according to a meeting participant.

Small island nations, their very existence threatened by rising

seas, have called for a cap of 1.5°.

The draft will also tally up the pledges from rich nations on

cutting greenhouse gases by 2020, and propose a target for all countries by


It also outlined a package for poor countries most vulnerable to

the ravages of an overheating world, kicking off with $10 billion dollars (about

R75?billion) a year from 2010 to 2012, climbing to $450 billion dollars annually

by 2015 and 100 billion by 2020.

The text also proposes a range of mechanisms for raising the money,

from a tax on air and sea transport fuel to a levy on financial transfers.

After days of deadlock, the mood brightened on Thursday when

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would contribute to a

long-term fund worth $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries fund

cleaner technology and shore up defences against the effects of climate


The pledge is contingent on an overall deal being secured, and the

G77 bloc of developing countries said that while the US proposals were “a good

signal” they were still not enough.

On Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined the

doomsayers, warning that the planet’s biggest ever meeting on climate faced a

looming disaster because of the disputes on emissions cuts.

“There is less than 24 hours. If we carry on like this, it will be

a failure,” Sarkozy charged. “Failure at Copenhagen would be catastrophic for

all of us.”

An internal UN memo earlier had shown that national pledges for

reducing greenhouse gas output would doom the world to a warming of up to three

degrees Celsius.

Scientists say such a rise would be disastrous, condemning hundreds

of millions of people to worsening drought, floods and storms.

“Coming back with an empty agreement would be far worse than coming

back empty-handed,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Clinton accused developing nations – without naming them – of

backsliding on pledges to open their promised controls on carbon emissions to

wide scrutiny, saying the issue is “a deal-breaker for us”.

China and India say they are willing to take voluntary measures to

slow their surges in heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions.

But they are reluctant to accept tough international inspection and

insist rich nations shoulder the main burden by accepting huge reduction


“We should not continue to dwell on these issues that are dividing

us. We should narrow our differences, otherwise we are facing a failure,”

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon tried to talk up the prospects of an

agreement, saying he had “not seen anything that indicates we cannot seal a


The United States was widely condemned for foot-dragging on climate

change under former president George W Bush, and Obama is hoping his presence

will be evidence of a transformation of policy.

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