Last-minute crumbs at Copenhagen

Last-minute crumbs at Copenhagen
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First Published: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 11 38 PM IST

Updated: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 11 38 PM IST
Copenhagen: With 24 hours to go, a minor US concession and a truce among blocs on Thursday allowed some crumbs to be salvaged from the Copenhagen climate summit.
Those may allow a political statement—short on specifics and long on generalities—to be crafted for 119 heads of states to sign off on Friday, the last day of the conference, leaving the much harder task of a legally binding treaty to Mexico in November.
For India, in the months ahead, even this weak statement may imply more concessions from its stated position. On Thursday, India and China agreed to limited verification of domestic mitigation action—as environment minister Jairam Ramesh put it—“not intrusive to national sovereignty” (he did not elaborate), so the US could be bought on board on Thursday.
It was also a day when the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the nation that first stalled the summit last week asking for a tough treaty, said Tuvaluans were leaving Copenhagen with “a bitter taste in our mouths”.
In effect, the approaching deal implies there is no question of immediately considering a temperature rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, which the small island nations, fearing submergence, say is non-negotiable for them.
The last-ditch efforts to get a strong political statement showed some progress after India, China and G-77, a block of 133 developing countries, agreed to a text based on United Nations drafts from two negotiation tracks: on long term cooperative action (LCA) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Negotiators were working on the final text at the time of going to press, so a statement can be drafted by Friday afternoon and adopted that evening.
The developing world was looking for concessions from the West and the second one —the first was a European commitment late on Wednesday to give the poorest nations $139 billion (Rs6.5 trillion) by 2020—came an hour before the truce, when US secretary for state Hillary Clinton announced “support” for a $100 billion annual global climate fund.
The condition: Emerging economies such as China and India, both of which are seeking western money too, chip in, and make “transparent and verifiable” their mitigation actions.
Unified goal: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the summit. Anja Niedringhaus/AP
That verification is against Indian and Chinese policy, but till the time of going to press, meetings were on, and it appeared no one wanted to be a deal breaker.
The US announcement “was important for an operational political statement (on Friday) in Copenhagen”, Clinton said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who heads the European Union (EU), also said, in official speeches, that emerging economies must contribute to the fund for poorer nations.
“It is a positive step,” Ramesh said in reaction to the US announcement. Mexico, a developing country, has already announced a contribution to the mitigation fund, which was announced by the EU on Wednesday.
Two hours after the US announcement, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called a meeting of representatives of the developing nations, including G-77 plus China, the island nations and India.
“All of us have agreed to a political outcome based on two tracks (LCA and the Kyoto Protocol),” said Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of China’s national development and reform commission, after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, India and China had accused rich countries of stalling the talks.
“From the beginning, the Danish government since has been trying for a political outcome,” Ramesh said. “All along there has been delay, delay and delay, so that this political statement could be decided by the heads of states… This not acceptable. The negotiations have been stalled.”
By afternoon, Ramesh said it was clear that heads of the states would adopt a political statement based on the texts of the two groups constituted to chalk out differences on LCA and the Kyoto Protocol. “The statement will consist of issues on which there is consensus among all parties,” he said.
Negotiators will decide the final text, possibly working into Thursday night.
The working groups of LCA and the Kyoto Protocol met several times over the last week, but failed to get all countries on board. A Danish attempt to fast-track the working groups led to a furious reaction from poor nations, led by the African bloc, which walked out of the discussions on Monday.
Finally, on Thursday morning, Danish PM Rasmussen nominated his trusted aide, environment minister Connie Hedegaard, to head new groups on LCA and Kyoto. He did not specify a deadline.
Rasmussen conceded a demand of the G-77 plus China that the Kyoto Protocol will first be discussed. The Kyoto Protocol, which the West wants to discard, says emission cuts must be limited to the developed world.
Several bilateral meetings between leaders are scheduled, including one between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
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First Published: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 11 38 PM IST