The Prime Ministers and Presidents of the world are heading for Copenhagen to start the high-level segment of the United Nations climate talks on Wednesday, but negotiating Ministers seem to have reached a dead end here.
Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the high-level segment, Danish Minister Connie Hedegaard warned that failure was possible. "Success is still within reach. But as president of the [summit], I must warn you that we can fail ...because we have spent too much time on repeating our positions, sending signals, and arguing about formalities," she said.
"Some progress has been made, but it's not nearly enough to show to the world," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. "Leaders are not coming here to leave empty-handed."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon warned: "We do not have another year to deliberate. Nature does not negotiate with us." "The time for consensus has arrived."
So far, consensus seems far away. The latest draft texts have even more gaps than before, reflecting the deepening rifts among the 192 nations, the Ministers of which are gathered here to find a way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
On Tuesday evening, the texts had removed most of the numbers that give the climate agreement some teeth. There is no longer any figure for rich nations' emission cuts or long term global goals or any deadline for the peaking of emissions. There is still no long term goal for financing to be provided to poor nations. Instead, there is a large bracketed section, beginning with the words, "To be elaborated."
Developing nations are firm on their demand that none of this elaboration can be done by the heads of state arriving for the finale of the Copenhagen talks. "This is not their job," insisted Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, sticking to his point that all text negotiation must be completed by Thursday morning. "If need be, we want a mandate for continuing negotiations in 2010 to bring about an agreed outcome," he added, virtually signing off any hope for a legal agreement here this week.
Instead, countries have already started haggling over the political declaration that is the only document likely to emerge from Copenhagen at the end of the summit. Developing countries are wary of a Danish declaration that would ignore the Kyoto Protocol.
"We don't want to see any more words, we want to see action. We don't want to see a denial of previous agreements, but rather action on them," said Xie Zhenhua, Chinese Minister and lead negotiator.
The U.S., however, has indicated that it will not be part of any global agreement that does not include commitments from China and other major developing countries. "I think they are doing a great deal ...but they have got to be prepared to put that in an international agreement," said Todd Stern, head of the U.S. delegation. He wants measurable, reportable, verifiable action from developing countries. Mr. Ramesh firmly refused this demand for international monitoring.