Desperate attempt to rescue climate summit

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS,

Copenhagen : The bleak morning matched the mood Monday as the Dec 7-18 climate summit started its final week with developed and developing countries as divided on major issues as before. Host nation Denmark started “informal consultations” with all governments in a desperate attempt to reach a meaningful “political declaration” of intent.

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Queues outside the sprawling Bella Centre, the conference venue, stretched to the nearest Metro station, as thousands of NGOs jostled to get in and push their government delegates towards a strong deal to save the world from the worst effects of climate change.

But realpolitik took over inside, with rich countries still refusing any significant cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) – which are warming the planet – or to put any meaningful amount of money on the table to help poor countries cope with climate change effects.

The emission cuts promised by advanced economies will not keep the world within two degrees of global temperature rise, a limit beyond which climate change effects will be “unpredictable and catastrophic”, according to Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

On the financing front, the lowest estimate – by the World Bank – of the money poor countries need to cope with climate change effects is $75 billion a year. All that the rich countries have offered so far is $10 billion a year for the next three years.

Instead, delegates from rich countries continued to blame emerging economies like India and China for not agreeing to legally binding GHG emission reduction targets, a position roundly condemned by Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as he hurried from one closed-door meeting to another.

“We cannot have a peaking year for our emissions,” Ramesh said, referring to a proposal to this effect circulated by a senior official of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “Nor can we agree to this demand that all countries cut down emissions or that our domestic actions to mitigate emissions be subject to international scrutiny.”

Ramesh also tightened the deadline to reach agreement here, saying its draft must be finalised by Wednesday evening. He was supported by Britain’s Ed Milliband, secretary of state for energy and climate change, who said: “We have to get our act together before the heads of state arrive.”

The Chinese government appeared exasperated by rich nations’ attempts to blame it for failure here. Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said: “It is the legal obligation of developed countries to fund developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change caused by the rich nations for over 150 years. Instead of doing that, they are trying to blame China.

“This is completely unfair, but China will continue to try its best to ensure an ambitious and just deal is reached in Copenhagen.”

Rich countries have used the fact that since 2007 China is the world’s largest GHG emitter, followed by the US, Russia and India. But developing countries point out that almost all the GHG – mainly carbon dioxide – warming up the atmosphere now has been put there by advanced economies.

Senior member of the US government delegation Jonathan Pershing repeated: “There will be no deal without emerging economies coming on board.”

As major economies – developed and developing – stuck to their entrenched positions, there were many rumours that not only Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but also Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama may also give this summit a miss. However, there was a glimmer of hope after reports that Manmohan Singh would leave for Copenhagen Thursday.

Late this morning, Connie Hedegaard, environment minister of host country Denmark, started a desperate attempt to reach at least some meaningful agreement, calling representatives of all 192 governments gathered here to “informal” consultations on the outstanding issues. According to a UNFCCC spokesperson, these included:

– Long-term emission reduction goal and its relationship to sustainable development.

– Aggregate and individual levels of emissions reductions by developed countries and how to ensure consistency in how targets are met.

– How to record planned mitigation actions by developing countries and how to consider the mitigation actions they have implemented.

– Ensuring predictable, long-term public financing for adaptation and mitigation, beyond short-term financial commitments – the scale of the mid- and long-term goal, the burden-sharing arrangements and how to make financial support “measurable, reportable and verifiable”.

But this attempt ran into trouble even before it started, with Kamel Djemouai, the Algerian representative to the talks here, saying Hedegaard’s attempts would mean “death of the Kyoto Protocol” and that the group of African countries was “totally opposed” to it. Algeria is the current chair of the Africa group.