Expectations run high in Copenhagen, core discussions underway

08:06, December 14, 2009      

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Government ministers were arriving in Copenhagen over the weekend to work for consensus on two draft texts after a week of discussions at the U.N. climate change talks amid expectations that negotiators from over 190 countries would seal a deal to fight climate change.

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate change official, had laid out three layers of action that governments must agree to in Copenhagen: fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all.


As discussions began a week ago, delegates specified their goals for the U.N. climate change conference. An overwhelming majority of the countries want a legally binding treaty to be signed at the end of the conference. De Boer said the treaty should include targets on mitigation, adaptation, financial support, technology transfer, forest protection and capacity building.

"Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends," de Boer told the opening plenary session of the conference.

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the current presidency of the European Union, said countries should reach a "legally binding deal" that includes all the basic elements of the Kyoto Protocol.

U.S. negotiators, however, want something else. The United States, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, expected a political agreement instead of a binding deal at the Copenhagen talks, they said. Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, said the United States will not become part of the Kyoto Protocol. "That's not on the table."

Sudanese diplomat Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Copenhagen conference should not only produce a political agreement, but also set clear targets for emissions reduction and financial support by developed nations.


Negotiating groups were still wide apart on some major goals on curbing global warming. Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard, who presides over the U.N. talks, said on Saturday she viewed the argument at the talks "constructive" as parties get down to the negotiating table for serious discussions.

Among the contentious points is the mid-term emission reduction target. A U.N. panel of climate scientists were proposing a 25-40 percent cut in carbon emissions to keep global warming under control. Developing nations are asking for a 40-percent cut.

The United States has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, equivalent to a reduction of 4 percent compared with 1990 levels. The European Union (EU) has committed to a voluntary reduction of 20 percent from 1990 levels and promised to raise the goal to 30 percent if others also aim high.

Although the call for financial support was partly answered on Friday with an EU pledge of 2.4 billion euros (3.5 billion U.S. dollars) annually from 2010 to 2012, developing nations still view the pledge as a far cry from their needs. The least developed countries are asking for 300 billion dollars in financial support. Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of Group of 77 and China, dismissed the EU pledge as "insignificant."


Before negotiators began discussions on the two draft texts prepared by the chairs of two major working groups of the conference, a leaked Danish draft caused uproar in the developing world for demanding less from developed nations and setting sensitive limits. Host Denmark denied the existence of a Danish draft.

The top U.N. climate official, Yvo de Boer, said the text had not been on the table "in a formal sense" and was only the basis for discussions among some countries.

"I think a number of countries are nervous about the text because they see it as being unbalanced," he added.

On Saturday, the two chair's proposed draft texts were posted on the conference' official website. The draft texts endorse goals to keep global average temperature increase within "1.5 degrees" or "2 degrees." The texts also commit developed nations to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by "75-85," "at least 80-95," or "more than 95" percent from 1990 levels by 2050. These options, bracketed in the texts, are yet to be agreed on.

Hedegaard said negotiators had started "core discussions."

More than 100 heads of state and government will arrive later in the week for a climate summit. De Boer told a press conference on Saturday that ministers need to turn their good will into action to ensure world leaders will be able to sign a meaningful deal in Copenhagen.

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