Struggle to nail climate pact

December 18, 2009 12:00 am

, COPENHAGEN, Dec 18 – World leaders struggled to nail down a climate pact on Friday, amid dismay and alarm among nations most at risk from global warming.

As US President Barack Obama joined in the talks in snowy Copenhagen at the climax of a 12-day talks marathon, other leaders said there were clear tensions around the table while insisting a deal could still be reached.

Obama said world leaders must accept a deal, no matter how imperfect, or risk opening dangerous splits in the bid to tackle global warming.

"This is not a perfect agreement, and no country would get everything that it wants," Obama said. "The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart."

A new draft text gave few details about either curbing emissions or funding, according to delegates.

While the draft contained a call to prevent a rise in global temperatures of more than 2.0 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times, the figure fell way short of the demands of threatened island nations.

"Whatever the outcome, it looks bad for us," said a member of the Maldives delegation, the Indian Ocean archipelago which fears being swallowed up by rising sea levels in a matter of decades.

Fear of failure has grown in Copenhagen, with often bitter disputes on emissions targets between top polluters China and the United States and complaints that poor nations had been sidelined.

Leaders and top diplomats from around 30 countries crafted an outline agreement in talks that ended in the early hours but new sticking points quickly emerged.

"There\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s lots of tension," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "But despite everything things are moving a little."

Sarkozy said there was still work to be done on ways to verify commitments on environmental action and on assistance to poor nations to adapt to climate change.

"We have to unblock this. There are some points that can\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t be ignored," Sarkozy said.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, chairman of the talks, urged the leaders to rise above their differences.

"We stand before one of these rare and defining moments in history," he said. "We must chart the course of the future of the planet.

"We must seize this great opportunity today. The time to act is now."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the leaders were "closer than ever to the world\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s first truly global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions".

"Just hours remain to close these final gaps," he added.

A European delegate said the draft agreement contained few specifics on mitigation efforts nor on funding.

"Basically it\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s become clear it\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s going to be just a political declaration, it\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s short on detail at the moment," the delegate told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The two degrees declaration would stop way short of demands from poorer countries. Small island nations, their very existence threatened by rising seas, have called for a cap of 1.5 Celsius.

Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said any rise above the 1.5 C mark would "leave millions of people suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages".

Scientists say such a rise would be disastrous, condemning hundreds of millions of people to worsening drought, floods and storms.

Diplomats said the draft accord outlines a package for poor countries most vulnerable to the ravages of an overheating world, kicking off with $10 billion a year from 2010 to 2012, and climbing to $100 billion annually by 2020.

After days of deadlock, the mood had been brightened when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would contribute to the fund, a move welcomed by the G77 bloc of developing countries as "a good signal" but not enough.

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".

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives and an Obama ally, said transparency was crucial.

"We have to have transparency otherwise we can say almost anything," she told AFP.

Xie Zhenhua, China\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s chief negotiator, said Beijing was prepared to accept international monitoring of any internationally funded projects but would not allow outside scrutiny of its voluntary reduction pledges.


Latest Articles

Most Viewed