Leaders try to save talks

2009-12-15 15:28

Copenhagen - World leaders began arriving at the UN climate summit on Tuesday, seeking to give a shot in the arm to the floundering talks after warnings that the whole event was at risk of ending in failure.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were among the heavyweights expected in the Danish capital where officials and climate ministers have struggled to make any progress since the marathon meeting began eight days ago.

"I appeal to all world leaders... to redouble efforts to find the room for compromise, to make a final push in this final stretch," Ban told reporters in New York before flying to the Danish capital.

"Time is running out... There is no time for posturing or blaming," he said.

"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."

Dramatic action

The summit, which reaches its climax on Friday when 120 heads of state huddle in the Danish capital, has been billed as one of the most important gatherings of the post-World War II era.

The conference's goal is to agree an outline deal of national pledges to curb carbon emissions and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars in help for poor countries in the firing line of climate change.

Scientists say that without dramatic action to tame greenhouse gases, Earth will be on course within the next decade for warming that will inflict drought, flood, storms and rising sea levels on tens of millions of people.

But deep divisions remain over how the tab split, with developing countries demanding that their rich counterparts implement a 40% in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

Emerging economic giants such as China and India say they are willing to promise voluntary measures to slow their forecast surges in emissions, but are under pressure to be more ambitious and be subject to international scrutiny.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the West was expected to take the lead, but argued that all countries had to play their part.

"This needs to be a common effort. All major economies, developed and developing, need to take robust and transparent action to reduce their carbon emissions," she wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

"The simple fact is that nearly all of the growth in emissions in the next 20 years will come from the developing world. Without their participation and commitment, a solution is impossible."

Bitter exchanges

Delegates say behind-closed-doors negotiations have been marred by bitter exchanges between the Americans and Chinese, with Beijing accusing Washington of "playing tricks".

Developing nations have complained that they are being sidelined, excluded from key negotiations by the conference chair Denmark.

"We are faced with a process in which we have no hand," Bernadita de Castro Muller, co-ordinator of the Group of 77 developing nations, told reporters, charging that the process was "totally undemocratic, totally untransparent".

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said everyone was aware the clock was ticking.

"We are running against time. The world has waited long enough," he said.

Thousands of environmental activists have descended on Copenhagen during the course of the 12-day summit, staging several large-scale demonstrations.

Danish police stormed a giant Copenhagen squat late on Monday, firing tear gas and arresting 210 demonstrators who had set alight barricades.

Police said they faced demonstrators' petrol bombs as they moved in to tackle the blazes.