Prospects Fade for Global Warming Pact in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is turning into a “dud”.


Alex Morales and Jeremy van Loon Alex Morales And Jeremy Van Loon Wed Dec 16, 6:18 am ET

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — World leaders will arrive in the Danish capital of Copenhagen over the next three days to agree on a pact to fight global warming. There may be nothing to sign.

Envoys from China, the U.S., the European Union and India, the world’s top polluters, have bickered, quarreled and walked out during talks among 193 nations. They’ve left presidents and prime ministers a choice between a fudge or a flop for the accord that the United Nations framed as the most comprehensive deal to curb global warming.

“Countries and blocks of countries have come here with very hard positions,” Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday in an interview in Copenhagen. “You need some seismic shifts to really close a deal.”

Connie Hedegaard, chairwoman of the meeting, stepped down today, allowing Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen to take over. She called the move “appropriate” with so many heads of state arriving. Officials had just announced efforts had failed to amend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol climate accord.

The angst in conference rooms has been reflected on the streets, with protesters fighting riot police as Denmark mounted the biggest security operation in its history. More than half of Denmark’s 10,500 police are providing security for the talks at Copenhagen’s Bella Center, which can hold 15,000 people.

The difficulty for the police is 46,000 people have tried to get into the talks in the city dubbed ‘Hopenhagen,’ leaving thousands waiting outside in freezing temperatures and yelling at security.

Dubbed ‘Constipagen’

“We’re calling it Constipagen because the line’s not moving and the talks are not moving,” said Jasmine Hyman, who works for the Geneva-based Gold standard Foundation that certifies carbon offsets. She said it took her eight hours to get in.

Speakers yesterday included Prince Charles, the heir to the U.K. throne, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who’s won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to publicize the issue of global warming, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived late Tuesday, while Obama will arrive later in the week.

Developing nations accused industrialized countries of trying to kill off the Kyoto Protocol, the current emissions- limiting treaty. Developed nations, including the U.S. and Japan, want to replace Kyoto with another treaty.

“The biggest obstacle to progress is that first it has to be clear that the Kyoto Protocol can’t disappear,” Mexican Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said in an interview in Copenhagen.


The U.S., the largest industrialized emitter, never ratified the Kyoto pact, which sets no binding emission targets for developing nations, such as India and China.

The disputes in Copenhagen stem from the division of the UN talks into two tracks: one to extend Kyoto’s binding emissions targets beyond 2012 for all developed nations bar the U.S., and another to establish what the world’s biggest economy and developing nations will do to cut their emissions.

The 27-nation European Union, which is bound by Kyoto, has called for the two negotiating tracks to be merged in favor of a single legally-binding treaty, a call rejected by poorer nations. Other developed nations support a single deal.

Japanese View

“The fundamental position of our government is that we are seeking a bigger comprehensive agreement than the Kyoto Protocol,” said Makio Miyakawa, Japan’s deputy director for global affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a Dec. 14 interview. “But the developing countries are still sticking to the Kyoto Protocol. And their position is very firm.”

Other issues dividing delegates include the size of emission reductions by developed nations, verifying emission reductions by developing countries and climate aid worth $100 billion a year from rich to poor nations.

The U.S. has rejected the demands of developing nations and most developed countries that it cut emissions more than its current goal of 17 percent from 2005 levels.

China and India don’t want their national commitments to become legally binding in an international treaty. Japan, the EU and other developed nations still haven’t come forward to say how much money they’re prepared to fork out past 2012 to help poorer nations adapt to the consequences of climate change and lower their emissions.

“This remains a very, very difficult process, and it could still fail,” said U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband. “It was always going to be the case that the most difficult bits would get left to the end. I hope ministers can sort them out. Some of them may be left to leaders.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Copenhagen via ; Alex Morales in Copenhagen via .


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