By Ashwani Kumar
| December 17th 2009 08:18 AM | Print
World leaders address fraught climate summit Buzz Up Share
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Copenhagen, Dec. 17 -- Persistently deep divisions threatened to scupper a climate change deal in Copenhagen on Wednesday, but Africa offered a glimmer of hope by asking for less money from rich nations.
"I know my proposal today will disappoint those Africans who, from the point of justice, have asked for full compensation of the damage done to our development prospects," said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on behalf of African nations present in Copenhagen. Addressing the plenary, Zenawi endorsed UN proposals for fast-start aid of $10 billion per year between 2010 and 2012.
He also estimated long-term aid requirements at up to $50 billion per year by 2015 and $100 billion by 2020. "My proposal dramatically scales back our expectation with regards to the level of funding in return for more reliable funding and a seat at the table in the management of such a fund," Zenawi said.
The issue of how much money should be given to poor countries to help them deal with global warming, and who should handle the money, is one of the main stumbling blocs on the way to a deal in Copenhagen. But Wednesday's speeches by world leaders also saw a succession of finger-pointing and desperate pleas ahead of Friday's deadline.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, for instance, accused rich nations of reneging on their promises, while Bolivian President Evo Morales and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, accused rich countries of creating a "world imperial dictatorship". The head of the European Union (EU) executive, Jose Manuel Barroso, in turn, recalled the bloc's efforts to cut emissions and provide financial aid to poorer nations, and urged the US and China - which together account for about 40 percent of world emissions - to step up their efforts.
And with the conference highlighting a deep rift between rich and poor nations, hecklers chanting "Social justice now!" disrupted a speech by Australian Environment Minister Penny Wong. Meanwhile, two draft texts prepared by bureaucrats in the run-up to high-level talks had failed to materialise on time, highlighting a lack of consensus among the nearly 200 delegations.
Some, including China and Brazil, also delayed proceedings, accusing the Danish presidency of excluding them from part of the negotiations. "The world is expecting us to move forward and we are talking procedures, procedures, procedures," complained Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who took over the chair of the conference.
"This is not about procedure, this is a matter of substance," retorted China's chief negotiator, Wei Su. Organisers were forced to issue a statement after some media outlets reported that the conference's chairwoman, Connie Hedegaard, had resigned.
Danish officials said they had always planned to entrust Rasmussen with conducting talks with fellow leaders and environment ministers, while Hedegaard was to lead informal consultations during the latter part of the conference. A restricted group of 25 countries, among them Britain, Germany and four other European nations, were discussing ways of helping the conference's chair break the impasse, German Environment Minister Nobert Roettgen explained earlier in the day.
Roettgen said major problems remained between the Danish presidency of the conference and the G77 group of developing nations, which includes big countries like India and China, but also smaller nations from Africa. "We are extremely disappointed at the lack of progress," said a delegate from Tuvalu, whose Pacific island state risks being submerged by rising sea levels as a result of global warming.
"I come here today to make a simple plea to seal the deal which will save my country, my people and our cultural heritage. The survival of my country is in peril," said Micronesian President Emanuel Mori.
The UN talks in Copenhagen aim to keep global warming in check by demanding massive greenhouse gas emission cuts from rich countries and billions of dollars in aid to the developing world. The EU was said to be considering raising its target on emissions cuts from 20 to 25 percent against 1990 levels by 2020 in a bid to encourage other parties to step up their efforts.
Prior to the start of the Copenhagen conference, the EU said it would raise its target to 30 percent, but only if other major polluters came up with comparable offers. The US has so far offered a 17-percent cut against 2005 levels.
An earlier base year would imply deeper cuts. But US negotiators say their longer-term targets are far more ambitious.