9 december 2009

Rich vs. poor clash at Copenhagen over money

By JOHN HEILPRIN, The Associated Press Wednesday December 9, 2009

Negotiators on Wednesday worked to bridge the chasm between rich and poor countries over how to share the burden of fighting climate change, and a top U.S. envoy was to highlight the Obama administration's efforts to curb greenhouse emissions.

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, the head of the 135-nation bloc of developing countries, said the $10 billion a year that has been proposed to help poor nations fight climate change paled in comparison to the more than $1 trillion already spent to rescue financial institutions.

"If this is the greatest risk that humanity faces, then how do you explain $10 billion?" he said. "Ten billion will not buy developing countries' citizens enough coffins."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson, whose agency just gave President Barack Obama a new way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, takes to the podium at the U.N. climate conference later Wednesday, headlining a U.S.-sponsored meeting entitled "Taking Action at Home."

The EPA determined Monday that scientific evidence clearly shows greenhouse gases are endangering Americans' health and must be regulated. That gave Obama a new way to regulate those gases without needing the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Obama will join more than 100 national leaders converging on Copenhagen for the final days of bargaining late next week.

China, which has recently overtaken the United States as the world's top greenhouse gas emitter, strongly protested Wednesday a blunder that prevented a top diplomat from entering the vast Bella Center where the 192-nation U.N. climate conference is being held.

Su Wei, the director general of China's climate change negotiation team, told the meeting he was "extremely unhappy" that a Chinese minister was barred from entry three days in a row.

Su called the incident "unacceptable" and expressed anger that U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer was not informed. De Boer pledged to investigate and "make sure it doesn't happen again."

Meanwhile, small island nations, poor countries and those seeking money from the developed world to preserve their tropical forests were among those upset over competing draft texts attributed to Denmark and China outlining proposed outcomes for the historic Dec. 7-18 summit.

Some of the poorest nations feared too much of the burden to curb greenhouse gases is being hoisted onto their shoulders. They are seeking billions of dollars in aid from the wealthy countries to deal with climate change, which melts glaciers that raise sea levels worldwide, turns some regions drier and threatens food production.

Diplomats from developing countries and climate activists complained the Danish hosts pre-empted the negotiations with their draft proposal, which would allow rich countries to cut fewer emissions while poorer nations would face tougher limits on greenhouse gases and more conditions on getting funds.

"When a process is flawed then the outcome is flawed," Raman Mehta, ActionAid's program manager in India, said of the Danish proposal. "If developing countries don't have a concrete indication of the scale of finances, then you don't get a deal _ and even if you do, it's a bad deal."

It focuses "on pleasing the rich and powerful countries rather than serving the majority of states who are demanding a fair and ambitious solution," said Kim Carstensen of the environmental group WWF.

A sketchy counterproposal attributed to China would extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrial nations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming by an average 5 percent by 2012, compared with 1990 levels.

The Chinese text would incorporate specific new, deeper targets for the industrialized world for a further five to eight years. However, developing countries including China would be covered by a separate agreement that encourages taking action to control emissions but not in the same legally binding way.

Poorer nations believe the two-track approach would best preserve the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" recognized by the Kyoto treaty.

In Rome, Greenpeace activists climbed halfway up the Colosseum at dawn Wednesday to press for a historic climate deal at the Copenhagen conference.

The U.N.'s weather agency unveiled data Tuesday showing that this decade is on track to become the hottest since records began in 1850, with 2009 the fifth-warmest year ever. The second warmest decade was the 1990s.

Only the United States and Canada experienced cooler conditions than average, the World Meteorological Organization said, though Alaska had the second-warmest July on record.

>>> Back to list