Ministers work to break deadlock at climate talks

Ministers strived to break a deadlock in global climate talks on Tuesday, three days before world leaders are meant to agree a new United Nations pact aimed at averting dangerous climate change.

Organisers of the Copenhagen talks said environment ministers would work deep into the night on Tuesday to narrow wide differences, saying the bulk of the work must be complete before about 130 leaders formally join the Dec 7 to 18 meeting on Thursday.

Talks remained stalled after a stand-off the previous day, held up by disputes over the level of emissions cuts by rich countries and a long-term global target to curb a rise in global temperatures, which could trigger rising sea levels, floods and drought.

“We have seen significant progress in a number of areas but we haven’t seen enough of it ... we are in a very important phase,” said UN climate chief Yvo de Boer.

Danish president of the talks Connie Hedegaard said she hoped the tight deadline might add urgency to the talks and help break the deadlock.

“It’s just like schoolchildren. If they have a very long deadline to deliver an exercise they will wait for the last moment ...
it’s basically as simple as that.”

Business leaders have said they want a clear deal with short- and long-term targets so that they can invest appropriately.

“There are still lots of issues that will likely be discussed only at the ministerial level, and that gives us some cause for concern,” said Abyd Karmali, global head of emissions trading at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Draft texts dated Tuesday showed that national negotiators had stripped out any figures from long-term global goals and rich-nation emissions cuts by 2020 that had been in the original text. The numbers could be reinserted if agreement is reached.

India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, told Reuters that the talks could even break down on “serious” outstanding issues.

“There is confusion and lack of clarity at this stage.” “There could be breakdown on many issues. We still don’t have great clarity on how the next few days are going to evolve.”

Brazil’s climate change ambassador, Sergio Serra, was more upbeat. “You can have a breakthrough ... with the pressure of time and of public opinion,” he told Reuters.

Forty-eight hours
Ministers are expected to work late into the night on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It’s very clear that ministers have to be extremely busy and focused over the next 48 hours if we are going to make the success we are trying to make,” said Hedegaard.

The Copenhagen talks have not yet agreed on a target for rich-nation funding to help the developing world pay to help poorer countries to prepare for and slow climate change.

Japan would offer $10-billion in aid over three years to 2012 to help developing countries fight global warming, including steps to protect biodiversity, a Japanese newspaper said on Tuesday.

Most developed countries support interim climate funds of about $30-billion from 2010 to 2012 to help poorer nations, many of which say that’s not enough.

Another thorny issue was how far developing nations should be bound to targets to slow their growth in emissions, a process known as measurement, reporting and verification (MRV).

“The MRV issue is a very serious divider,” said India’s Ramesh. The issue “might not sound that sexy but it’s still a very crucial part because that is where there are red lines to different parties”, said Hedegaard.

Rich country carbon cuts will likely be legally binding.

De Boer and Hedegaard were speaking at a press conference where a life buoy hung in front of them on the stage, sponsored by the development group Oxfam reading “1,5-million voices”.

An Oxfam spokesperson said the figure represented the 1,5-million people who participated in climate hearings run by the organisation this year in 35 countries. She said the verdict of the hearings was: “Climate change kills. Act now, save life.”

Hundreds of people waited on Tuesday to enter the conference centre hosting UN climate change talks in Copenhagen.

De Boer said that 46 000 people had registered for the meeting, in a building that can take 15 000 delegates. “Part of the problem is that you can’t fit size-12 feet into size-6 shoes ... that is physically impossible and unsafe.”—Reuters

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