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Earth

Talks are 'a defining moment in history', Ban Ki-moon says

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-15

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged countries to redouble efforts to reach a final deal on climate change in Copenhagen, in an effort to rescue failing talks at what has been dubbed the 'Last Chance Summit'.

A France 24 - RFI webdocumentary

AFP - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said world leaders faced a "defining moment in history" as they balanced their nation's interests with a global clamour to halt the juggernaut of climate change.

With just over three days left to broker one of the most ambitious, yet also fiendishly complex, deals in human history, conference chair Denmark appealed for all sides to embrace the spirit of compromise.

But China and the United States -- the world's two biggest carbon polluters -- brushed aside European calls for concessions on emissions reductions, the thorniest issue of all.

The summit aims at sealing national pledges to curb heat-trapping carbon gases that are wreaking havoc with Earth's climate system, and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars for poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Crowned on Friday by a meeting of some 120 heads of state and government, the outline political deal would be fleshed out next year by further talks, culminating in a treaty that would take effect from 2013.

But former US vice president and environmental activist Al Gore voiced the fears of many that Copenhagen may yield only a partial success, and called for world leaders to meet in Mexico City in July to complete the process.

Ban, speaking at the formal start of the full ministerial session known as the high level segment, spoke of a "defining moment in history."

"We know what we must do. We know what the world expects. Our job here and now is to seal the deal, a deal in our common interest."

Targets for reductions in emissions had to be more ambitious and finance was central to any agreement, he warned.

The talks' chairwoman, Denmark's Connie Hedegaard, said success was "still within reach" but said there had to be a greater spirit of compromise.

"We can’t risk failure. No one here can carry that responsibility. That means that the keyword for the next two days must be compromise."

But both China and the United States appeared in little mood to bend on the core issue of emissions.

US President Barack Obama has offered to cut US carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark, a figure that aligns with legislation put before the US Congress.

The offer by the United States, which is the world's second biggest polluter after China, has been widely criticised by other parties as inadequate.

"I am not anticipating any change in the mitigation commitment," said US chief delegate Todd Stern.

"Our commitment is tied to our anticipated legislation and there are elements in that legislation that could result in an overall target or an overall reduction amount that could actually be a fair amount higher, but we're not making a commitment to that right now because it's just uncertain."

Beijing's climate ambassador said China's voluntary plan for braking the forecast growth in its emissions was not open to negotiation.

"We announced those targets, we don't intend to put them up for discussion," Yu Qingtai told reporters.

Europe, which has already pledged to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020 in comparison with 1990 and offered to go to 30 percent if others follow suit, said the big polluters had to relent.

"There are two countries in the world representing half the emissions of the world, and that's the United States and China," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the 27-nation European Union.

"We still expect them both to raise their ambition level for emission reductions, otherwise we won't be able to reach the two degree target," referring to the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit degrees).

European powerhouse Germany likewise pointed the finger.

"The main problem is that neither the US nor China want to do the next step now," said its environment minister Norbert Roettgen.

"Both want to keep every option open up to the last hours of the conference ... We don't have much time left."

Reflecting deadlock, a new draft text gave no figures for a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, a peak for emissions, an intended limit to warming, nor on financing for poor countries exposed to climate change.

These core questions were farmed out to small parties of ministers, charged with brokering a consensus by Friday.

The summit is billed as one of the most important gatherings of the post-World War II era.

If the surge in greenhouse gas emissions is unbraked, Earth will be on course within the next decade for warming that will inflict hunger, misery, disease and homelessness on many millions of people, say experts.

Date created : 2009-12-15

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