Consensus eludes climate talks

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SENDING a MESSAGE: Riot police stop protesters outside the climate change summit venue in Copenhagen on Wednesday.
SENDING a MESSAGE: Riot police stop protesters outside the climate change summit venue in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

Priscilla Jebaraj

Kyoto is in ICU if not dead: Jairam Ramesh

COPENHAGEN: On a day of long speeches in the plenary and loud protests outside, the Danish president of the UN climate talks here told developing countries that progress on the Kyoto Protocol is unlikely here. There may not be any post-2012 commitment of emission cuts by rich nations under the Protocol coming out of Copenhagen.

Outside, protesters and police scuffled as an attempt to break through the barricades of the Bella Centre, venue of the UN climate talks, was met with batons and pepper spray.

Inside, the confusion was more subtle, but still present: conference president Connie Hedegaard resigned, the high-level segment was delayed by developing country objections to a non-transparent process, and the entire draft on long term cooperative action has been placed inside the square brackets of indecision.

Negotiators worked through Tuesday night into the early hours of Wednesday, but have not succeeded in finding consensus on the most fundamental questions: by how much should greenhouse gas emissions be cut, by whom, by which date – and of course, who will pay for the cost of mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change. By Wednesday evening, the draft text was entirely enclosed in square brackets, which means none of it has been agreed upon.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh warned that the Kyoto Protocol, the only existing legal treaty which mandates emission reduction for developed nations except the U.S., is in danger. “Kyoto is in intensive care if not dead,” he said. A senior Indian negotiator says that Ms. Hedegaard told India and other major developing countries that an agreement on the second commitment period for Kyoto, starting in 2013, was unlikely here.

Ms. Hedegaard, the Danish Environment Minister, herself resigned as president of the conference on Wednesday morning, handing over charge to Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. It was explained as a natural protocol response to the fact that the summit is now welcoming presidents and prime ministers, not merely environment ministers. However, rumours swirled around the venue that Ms. Hedegaard was either bearing the blame for African nations’ complaints of bias or the chaos over accreditation and security.

Some NGO observers alleged that the Danish PM would push through the infamous Danish declaration opposed by developing countries.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer said that the Danish text was only “intended as a tool, an aid to develop consensus...and facilitate the process. It is ultimately up to the governments to decide what texts they want to use as a basis for negotiation.”

Mr. Ramesh has said that if a Danish text is “sprung” on them, developing countries – including India, China, Brazil and South Africa – will release their own draft.

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