Climate Change Summit in Deadlock Over Rival Texts on Cutting Emissions

Published December 12, 2009

| London Times

The Copenhagen climate change summit is likely to end with two rival texts because the main countries cannot agree on the key question of how to share the burden of cutting emissions to a safe level.

The extent of the disagreement was exposed by the publication yesterday of two draft agreements, neither of which contained clear numbers or language on any of the most contentious issues, despite two years of negotiations before the summit.

The U.S. refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol has forced negotiators to work on two separate texts and there is now little chance of the twin-track process producing a single document. The negotiators from 193 countries are hoping that the early arrival at the summit of several leaders next Wednesday, including Gordon Brown, will help to break the deadlock.

The only issues on which agreement is close are a commitment to a three-year climate fund to help poor countries to adapt to global warming and a pledge to limit the global temperature increase to 2C, although without a clear plan for delivering it.

Brown raised Britain’s contribution to the fund yesterday by 50 percent to £1.2 billion, with another £300 million if other countries made comparable efforts, although the government later admitted that it was re-allocating money previously pledged for overseas aid. The main difference between the rival texts at the end of the summit will be in how to regulate emissions cuts from developing countries. Many rich countries, including the U.S., want the bigger developing countries, especially China and India, to make commitments to reduce the rate of growth of their emissions.

Developing countries insist that under the Kyoto Protocol only the rich countries, responsible for most of the greenhouse gases, should be forced to cut their emissions. Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, admitted that significant obstacles remained to agreeing a single text. He said: "This remains tough. This is absolutely not a done deal. I don’t want to hide the scale of the challenge that remains. It is very complicated and difficult."

Miliband said that his key objective in Copenhagen was to secure agreement on emissions peaking in 2020. However, the draft text from the working group that includes the U.S. failed to mention any date and merely said that emissions should peak as soon as possible. The text contained a very broad range of possible targets on global emissions cuts. At one extreme they would fall by 50 percent by 2050 and at the other by 95 percent.

On the issue of long-term funding for poor countries to cope with climate change, the text mentioned no amounts but said simply that the sum provided would be adequate, predictable and sustainable.

Miliband said that he wanted the summit to set a six-month deadline for agreeing a single, legally binding treaty. Some negotiators, however, are privately expressing doubt that this will even be possible by the next climate change summit in Mexico in a year’s time.

Miliband declined to say what proportion of Britain’s contribution to the long-term fund would be additional to existing aid commitments. He agreed with the U.S. that none of the short-term fund should go to China.

This issue has been one of the most divisive this week, with He Yafei, China’s Vice-Foreign Minister, criticising Todd Stern, the U.S. chief negotiator, yesterday over his comments that no US money should go to China. He said: "I think he lacks commonsense or is extremely irresponsible."

Kemal Djemouai, the Algerian chairman of the African group, said: "The developed countries found $1.4 trillion to combat the financial crisis. Now they are offering just $10 billion to fight climate change."

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