Climate talks seek calm after fury at draft text

10th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

After widespread anger among developing nations at the summit, the UN climate pointman insisted the draft text was out of date, and would be most unlikely to constitute the final outcome.

Copenhagen -- Negotiators at the UN climate marathon tried Wednesday to smooth over a furious row over an early draft text which highlighted the summit tensions between rich carbon emitters and the world's poor.

After widespread anger among developing nations had punctured a growing sense of optimism at the summit, the UN climate pointman insisted the document was out of date, and would be most unlikely to constitute the final outcome.

"That text, and other texts that have been circulating, have not been on the table in a formal sense," said Yvo de Boer.

"They were the basis for discussion among a number of countries, actually a week and a day ago, and have never been tabled in any formal way.

"But I think the (mood) that's out there, people see that as a document that they don't want to be the base for negotiation."

Nevertheless the row which erupted late Tuesday illustrated the divides which will need to be bridged at the December 7-18 parlay, aimed at lancing the threat posed by global warming and setting the world on a low-carbon future.

The summit encountered further turbulence Wednesday when a Chinese minister was barred from entering the venue for the third time in as many days -- sparking a formal protest by the delegation from Beijing.

Danish police meanwhile said they had carried out an overnight raid in Copenhagen where foreign activists were staying, seizing material which was deemed incitement.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon's prediction Tuesday that the summit would seal "a robust agreement ... that will be effective immediately and include specific recommendations" had captured a sense of optimism here.

But the controversy which erupted only hours later over the leaked draft soon changed the atmosphere, unleashing charges by poorer nations and activists that it had been cooked up in private and favoured advanced economies.

The Danish text is a "serious violation that threatens the success of the Copenhagen negotiating process," declared Sudan's Lumumba Stanislas Dia Ping, who heads the Group of 77 bloc of developing countries.

But he said poorer nations would not boycott the talks.

"The G77 members will not walk out of this negotiation at this late hour because we can't afford a failure in Copenhagen," he told journalists.

"However, we will not sign an inequitable deal. We can't accept a deal that condemns 80 percent of the world population to further suffering and injustice."

Several delegates told AFP Wednesday that they were angry that an 11-day-old text -- badly out of date, given the fast-moving pace of the climate negotiations -- caused such a kafuffle.

"It's caused a lot of anger among developing countries who fear they are not being included in the informal process," said a European source.

In reality, "it's a storm in a teacup, it's a text that was dredged up from 11 days ago and was covered by the media at the time."

Another delegate said: "It's an interesting sign of how far some delegations will go to undermine Denmark's efforts to get an ambitious deal."

If all goes well, the 194 nations meeting in Copenhagen under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will secure a political agreement spelling out national pledges for curbing heat-trapping carbon emissions, also called greenhouse gases.

Over the past 250 years, atmospheric concentrations of these invisible, odourless, tasteless gases have risen, propelled by the unbridled use of coal, oil and gas.

In tandem, atmospheric temperatures have surged in the last quarter-century, inflicting damage to glaciers and snowfall.

Scientists fear far worse is to come this century in the form of drought, flood, storms and rising seas that will threaten tens of millions.

Underpinning the debate is the question of national sacrifice.

"Fossil" fuels are cheap and plentiful and constitute the backbone of the world's energy supply today. So reining in their use carries an economic cost, in better energy efficiency or a switch to cleaner, renewable sources.

The envisioned December 18 accord will also pump hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to poor countries, providing them with newer technology and the means to toughen their defences against the impact of climate change.

Further talks would be needed, probably throughout 2010, to fill in the details of the skeletal agreement. The hope is to usher in a new planetary-wide agreement from 2013, smoothly handover from the expiration of commitments under the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol.

Richard Ingham/AFP/Expatica

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