Developing countries agree to resume climate talks

Last Updated: Monday, December 14, 2009 - 23:14

Copenhagen: The European Union says poor countries have stopped their boycott of climate change negotiations at Copenhagen and have found a solution to their dispute with rich nations.

The EU environment spokesman Andreas Carlgren says informal talks at Copenhagen resolved the impasse.

Developing countries brought the negotiations to a halt earlier Monday with their demand that rich countries offer much deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

The move disrupted the 192-nation conference and forced the cancellation of formal working groups, delaying negotiators who are trying to resolve technical issues before the arrival of more than 110 world leaders later this week.

The developing nations were trying to shift the UN talks` agenda to focus on the responsibilities of the industrial countries to halt global warming.

Earlier, China, India and other developing nations boycotted UN climate talks Monday, bringing negotiations to a halt with their demand that rich countries discuss much deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

The move disrupted the 192-nation conference and forced the cancellation of formal working groups, delaying the frantic work of negotiators trying to clear away technical issues before the arrival of more than 110 world leaders later this week.

The developing countries want to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which imposed penalties on rich nations if they did not comply with its strict emissions limits but made no such binding demands on developing nations.

However, the move was largely seen as a ploy to shift the agenda to the responsibilities of the industrial countries and make emissions reductions the first item for discussion when world leaders begin arriving Tuesday.

"I don`t think the talks are falling apart, but we`re losing time," said Kim Carstensen, of the World Wildlife Fund. The developing countries "are making a point."

The dispute came as the conference entered its second week, and only days before more than 100 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, were scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen.

"Nothing is happening at this moment," Zia Hoque Mukta, a delegate from Bangladesh, told The Associated Press. He said developing countries have demanded that conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark bring the industrial nations` emissions targets to the top of the agenda before talks can resume.

Poor countries, supported by China, say Hedegaard had raised suspicion that the conference was likely to kill the Kyoto Protocol. The United States withdrew from Kyoto over concerns that it would harm the US economy and that China, India and other major greenhouse gas emitters were not required to take action. China is now the world`s top greenhouse gas polluter.

"We are seeing the death of the Kyoto Protocol," said Djemouai Kamel of Algeria, the head of the 50-nation Africa group.

It was the second time the Africans have disrupted the climate talks. At the last round of negotiations in November, the African bloc forced a one-day suspension until wealthy countries agreed to spell out what steps they will take to reduce emissions.

"They are trying to put the pressure on" before Obama and other world leaders arrive, said Gustavo Silva-Chavez, a climate change specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund. "They want to make sure that developed countries are not left off the hook."

An African delegate said developing countries decided to block the negotiations at a meeting hours before the conference was to resume. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was held behind closed doors. He said applause broke out every time China, India or another country supported the proposal to stall the talks.

Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Fund said "this is all part of the negotiating dynamic, especially as you get closer to the end game."

UN climate chief Yvo De Boer said Hedegaard was holding informal consultations with delegates "to get things going."

Canada`s Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Hedegaard did the "responsible thing" by meeting with parties to discuss concerns about Kyoto. But he acknowledged the setback to negotiations.

"We have lost some time. There is no doubt about that," Prentice said. "It is not particularly helpful but all in all it is our responsibility to get on with it and continue to negotiate."

In Washington, the White House announced a new program drawing funds from international partners to spend $350 million over five years to give developing nations clean energy technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming.

The program will distribute solar power alternatives for homes, including sun-powered lanterns, supply cleaner equipment and appliances and work to develop renewable energy systems in the world`s poorer nations.

The US share of the program will amount to $85 million, with the rest coming from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in Copenhagen.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown`s office said he would go to Copenhagen on Tuesday — two days earlier than planned — to try to inject momentum into the talks. His spokesman denied that Brown — facing a national election by June — was seeking any personal credit if a deal is struck.

Former Vice President Al Gore told the conference that new data suggests a 75 percent chance the entire Arctic polar ice cap may disappear in the summertime as soon as five to seven years from now. Gore, who won a Nobel Peace prize for his work on climate change, joined the foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark in presenting two new reports on melting Arctic ice.

Throngs of newly arrived delegates, journalists and climate activists jammed the security and accreditation lines at the conference center, forcing police to shut down the nearby subway stop.

Police said they detained about 20 people in a group of 3,000 climate activists protesting outside Parliament. More than 1,200 people were detained in weekend protests, although almost all were released after questioning. About a dozen were arraigned on preliminary charges of assaulting police officers or carrying box-cutters or other sharp objects.

There were sporadic reports of vandalism across the city overnight on Monday.

Police spokesman Henrik Moeller Jakobsen said 12 cars had been set on fire, including three vehicles belonging to Danish power company Dong Energy. Vandals also smashed windows and threw red paint at the headquarters of the Danish Immigration Service. It was not immediately clear whether those attacks were related to the conference.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, December 14, 2009 - 23:14

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