Crunch time as world leaders gather to salvage climate talks
French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that “time is against us” during his address at the Copenhagen summit Thursday, as world leaders gathered on the penultimate day of the talks amid deep divisions between rich and poor nations.
Environment ministers planned to work late into the night on draft texts outlining curbs on greenhouse gas emissions as part of a 193-nation deal due on Friday to slow climate change. About 120 world leaders would hold a gala dinner.
The talks, deadlocked for 24 hours, resumed after Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen dropped plans to present his own compromise texts. His plan had been opposed by poor nations which insisted everyone should be involved.
"Time is against us, let's stop posturing," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a speech. "A failure in Copenhagen would be a catastrophe for each and everyone of us." He proposed a late-night meeting of leaders, saying time was running out.
The United States, the number two emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, helped the talks which have made little progress since they were launched in late 2007 with a deadline of a deal by the end of the Dec. 7-18 meeting.
"The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference.
The European Union has proposed a $150 billion global fund, and the head of the African group of countries Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday supported climate aid for the world's poorest of $100 billion.
Agreement on a climate fund could add political drive to the U.N. talks which are also meant to agree a host of other measures on Friday, from saving rainforests to boosting carbon markets and stiffening global carbon emissions cuts.
But any deal will have to be agreed by unanimity. And some small island states and African nations -- vulnerable to droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising seas -- insist they will not agree a weak deal.
"We are talking about the survival of our nation," said Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia of the Pacific island state of Tuvalu.
The draft texts include possible goals such as halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or obliging developed nations to cut their emissions by between 25 and 40 percent by 2020.
"If each and everyone does a little bit more than we can do this," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. She said the European Union was willing to do more but would not act alone.
Sarkozy signalled that he could accept an extension of the existing Kyoto Protocol, which binds developed nations to cut emissions until 2012. The European Union prefers a single new treaty for all nations but poor nations want Kyoto to survive.
And he said Copenhagen should set a mid-2010 deadline for wrapping up a treaty after a non-binding deal in Copenhagen.
"We are moving out of the valley of death. We are beginning to see the outlines of a compromise, helped by the U.S. offer on finance," said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF environmental group's global climate initiative.
Earlier on Thursday, prospects for a strong U.N. climate pact seemed remote as nations blamed leading emitters China and the United States for deadlock on carbon cuts.
But ministers and leaders urged fresh urgency.
"Copenhagen is too important to fail," China's climate change ambassador Yu Qingtai said, adding that the presence of Premier Wen Jiabao, who arrived in Copenhagen on Wednesday evening, was testament to China's commitment.
India's environment minister Jairam Ramesh accused rich countries of planning a "propaganda campaign" to blame developing nations for any breakdown. Developing economies are expected to add almost all future growth in carbon emissions.
"We are in the end game. It's only a matter of time before the blame game starts," said Ramesh.
Clinton said that any U.S. contribution to a global $100 billion fund for the world's poor depended on developing nations standing behind their actions to curb growth in emissions under a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.
Clinton said a deal would fail unless developing nations, specifically China, committed to transparency on their emissions curbs.