Climate summit on razor`s edge
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Last Updated: Saturday, December 19, 2009, 10:52
  
Copenhagen: The Copenhagen climate summit was on the razor's edge early Saturday between collapse and the adoption of an accord proposed by India and four other countries.

As a host of countries attacked the accord that India had prepared with the US, China, Brazil and South Africa, the final plenary session of the summit resumed after an hour-long suspension but was again halted almost at once.

Before that, Tuvalu, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua led the attack on the Copenhagen accord that was meant to be the call from the UN summit to fight climate change that is affecting millions of lives.

Delegates from these countries called the accord undemocratic because all 192 countries in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had not discussed it.

The accord had been shown to representatives of 25 nations before being presented to the plenary session of the conference, but that did not satisfy some delegates.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who was presiding over the plenary session, had no choice but to adjourn the meeting and retire behind closed doors in yet another attempt to hammer out a compromise that would save the summit from total failure.

The delegate from Nicaragua, who had called for a suspension of the entire conference before the recess, said on resumption that he would withdraw his motion if the accord was presented to all countries as just another submission and not as a done deal. That forced Rasmussen into yet another huddle with UN officials.

It all started when India and other emerging economies prepared a Copenhagen accord late Friday night in association with the US. The accord came under attack from the Group of 77 almost at once.

In a dramatic development on Friday evening, US President Barack Obama broke into a meeting of the heads of government of BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India, China - and held an hour-long meeting.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma were all present.

The draft was prepared at the meeting and finalised with heads of 25 other countries, plus European Union (EU) and the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an Indian official said.

"The global goal of what we agreed upon was to keep temperature rise within two degrees Celsius," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said shortly afterwards. "We also agreed upon a transparency mechanism that protects our sovereignty."

He was referring to the demand by rich countries that emerging economies not only take steps to control emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the earth, but that their actions be verifiable by the international community.

India and China have opposed this earlier, saying this would impinge upon their sovereignty.

Describing the third sticking point to a Copenhagen accord, Ramesh informed: "President Obama said some European countries wanted to negotiate a new legal treaty (to fight climate change). Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it very clear that no new legal treaty could be negotiated, since we already have the Kyoto Protocol."

While Ramesh said India and the BASIC countries had got a "good deal" that was also "good for the entire developing world", the G77 did not think so.

In the sharpest division within the developing world in recent years, Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudan's ambassador to the UN, called it "the worst development in the fight against climate change". Sudan is now chair of the G77.

That division came out in the open as soon as the plenary session started. Obama had left hours before that, telling the journalists accompanying him from Washington: "This is going to be the first time when emerging countries have offered mitigation targets, voluntarily. It was essential to get that shift in orientation. That will be the major benefit of this accord."

Obama said a legally binding treaty to fight climate change was necessary but would be "very hard" to get. "If we just waited for that then we would not make any progress."

But many green NGOs were unhappy with the accord. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said: "World leaders failed to avert catastrophic climate change. People everywhere demanded a real deal before the summit began and they are still demanding it. We can still save hundreds of millions of people from the devastation of a warming world, but it has just become a whole lot harder."

Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF Global Climate Initiative, said: "After years of negotiations we now have a declaration of will which does not bind anyone and therefore fails to guarantee a safer future for next generations."

But there were some supporters too. Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director, said: "The world's nations have come together and concluded a historic - if incomplete - agreement to begin tackling global warming."

The European Union accepted the accord but was not very happy with it. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "It's a positive step but clearly below our ambitions."

The EU had earlier said it would increase its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction pledge from 20 to 30 percent if there was a strong deal at Copenhagen. But Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in the early hours of Saturday that the union would stay at 20 percent.

IANS


First Published: Saturday, December 19, 2009, 10:52


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