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Hundreds arrested at climate protests

Video by Gulliver CRAGG , Myriam MASCARELLO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-13

At least 30,000 people demonstrated in Copenhagen Saturday to pressure climate delegates to reach a pact at the UN Copenhagen summit. Police made 968 arrests, including about 400 members of militant groups from other parts of Europe.

AFP - A planetary chain of protests headed by a mass rally in Copenhagen cranked up the heat Saturday on UN talks to roll back climate change as negotiators reported scant progress after six days of haggling.
  
At least 30,000 people marched through Copenhagen in icy winds, demanding world leaders declare war on the greenhouse gases that threaten future generations with hunger, poverty and homelessness.
  
The rally to the heavily-guarded Bella Center conference venue capped a day of lobbying by green groups around the world, staging peaceful, colourful protests from Australia to the Arctic Circle.
  
A violent episode marred the Copenhagen event as hundreds of black-clad youths were seen throwing bricks and smashing windows, prompting swift intervention by riot police.
  
Police made 968 arrests, including about 400 members of militant groups from other parts of Europe known as Black Blocs. About 150 were released late Saturday after questioning.
  
The 194-nation conference under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is touted to wrap up on Friday with a political deal sealed by more than 110 heads of state and government.
  
It would commit major economies to actions that would curb emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel gases and generate hundreds of billions in dollars for poor countries badly exposed to the effects of climate change.
  
Connie Hedegaard, a former Danish climate minister chairing the 12-day marathon, said world leaders could not resist the global clamour.
  
"It has taken years to build up pressure that we see around the world, and that we have also seen unfolding today in many capitals," Hedegaard said.
  
"That has contributed to making the political price for not delivering in Copenhagen so high that I am absolutely convinced that leaders consider very carefully whether they want to pay that price."
  
But many delegates complained that progress so far had been negligible and the mood soured by finger-pointing.
  
A seven-page draft blueprint, presented on Friday, ran into problems almost immediately among developing countries, emerging giant economies, the United States and the European Union.
  
Poorer countries lashed it for failing to spell out commitments on finance while the United States complained it failed to bind China and other high-population, fast-growing economies to tough pledges on emissions.
  
The European Union said the draft did not go nearly far enough to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal endorsed by many countries.
  
"We are in a situation where we can see that so far we haven't achieved enough," Andreas Carlgren, environment minister of Sweden, which currently chairs the 27-nation European Union, said on Saturday.
  
The European Union has unilaterally decided to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent over 1990 levels, and has offered to deepen this to 30 percent if it finds other major players willing to make a comparable effort.
  
But Carlgren ruled this out, blaming foot-dragging by the world's top two carbon emitters.
  
"So far we haven't sufficient bids on the table," he told a press conference. "So far the bids from the United States and China are not sufficient whereby we can deliver this 30 percent."
  
Hedegaard scheduled an informal meeting with 48 environment ministers on Saturday, followed by a further session on Sunday.
  
Huge strides have been made in putting together the draft blueprint, she said, but she acknowledged: "We still have a daunting task in front of us over the next few days."
  
This weekend's meetings mark the start of a gruelling game of climate poker before the arrival of heads of state and government on Wednesday and Thursday, many of whom will speak in the conference's plenary session.
  
Those rostered to attend include US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan, and the heads of the European Union.
  
Failure this coming Friday would deal a heavy blow to the nation-state system, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations' Nobel-winning panel of climate scientists, warned on Saturday.
  
"I think if we are able to get a good agreement, this would clearly create an enormous amount of confidence in the ability of human society to be able to act on a multilateral basis," said Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  
"If we fail, I don't think everything is lost, but certainly it will be a major setback."

Date created : 2009-12-12

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