African anger erupts at climate talks over future of Kyoto Protocol

Negotiations at the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen descended into chaos for five hours Monday when developing nations walked out of the session after accusing rich countries of trying to kill the existing UN Kyoto Protocol.


AFP - The UN climate summit hit major turbulence Monday when developing nations staged a five-hour walkout and China accused the West of trickery, as the spectre of failure loomed heavily over Copenhagen.

As campaigners warned negotiators had five days to avert climate chaos, ministers acknowledged they had to start making giant strides before 120 heads of state arrived for the summit's climax on Friday.

Follow the Copenhagen Conference online

But their hopes were hit when Africa led a boycott by developing nations of working groups, and only returned after securing guarantees that the summit would not sideline talks about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

That core emissions-curbing treaty ties rich countries that have ratified it to binding emissions curbs but not developing nations.

It does not include the United States, which says the Protocol is unfair as the binding targets do not apply to developing giants that are already huge emitters of greenhouse gases. A first round of pledges under Kyoto expires at the end of 2012, and poorer nations are seeking a seven-year commitment period.

The walkout delivered another blow to the summit which has already been marred by spats between China and the United States.

A top Western negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a round-table session of around 50 environment ministers Sunday had been soured by "growing tensions between the Americans and Chinese".

"At the back of everyone's mind is the fear of a repeat of the awful scenario in The Hague," she told AFP, referring to a climate conference in 2000 on completing the rule book for Kyoto that broke up angrily without agreement.

In an apparent concession, China said it might not take a share of any Western funding for emerging nations to fight climate change.

But in a pointer to the tensions backstage, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said China would not be the fall guy if there were a fiasco.

"I know people will say if there is no deal that China is to blame. This is a trick played by the developed countries. They have to look at their own position and can't use China as an excuse," he told the Financial Times.

Bolivia, whose leftist President Evo Morales has been a strident critic of Western climate policy, said smaller countries were being locked out of the negotiations.

"They are creating an undemocratic parallel process where they can pick and choose only some countries," said Bolivian envoy Pablo Solon.

EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso also voiced fears of a failure.

"How are we going to look on Friday or Saturday if there are more than 100 heads of state and government from all over the world and that what we say to the world is that it was not possible to come to an agreement, I think it is unthinkable," he said in Brussels.

Campaigners were even blunter, with Greenpeace saying the summit had five days "to avert climate chaos" and emissions targets so far offered by Western leaders such as US President Barack Obama amounted to "peanuts".

The gathering's daunting goal is to tame greenhouse gases -- the invisible by-product derived mainly from the burning of coal, oil and gas that traps the Sun's heat and warms the atmosphere.

Scientists say that without dramatic action within the next decade, Earth will be on course for warming that will inflict drought, flood, storms and rising sea levels, translating into hunger and misery for many millions.

The stakes were underlined when a new UN report said that some 58 million people have been affected by 245 natural calamities so far this year, more than 90 percent of them weather events amplified by climate change.

And a study from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an intergovernmental group, said climate change threatens the survival of dozens of animal species from the emperor penguin to Australian koalas.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app