World leaders race to beat climate deadline

US President Barack Obama joins dozens of world leaders in Copenhagen on the final day of the UN climate talks amid fears an emerging deal may fall short of targets set to fight global warming.


AFP - US President Barack Obama joined world leaders Friday in a final push for a climate pact but poor nations feared the agreement would fail to stave off the worst ravages of global warming.

Obama flew in to a snowy Copenhagen to join about 120 heads of state and government at the climax of 12-day talks which have been marked by inter-continental wrangling and large-scale protests.

Fear of failure has dogged the talks as disputes on emissions targets between top polluters China and the United States and complaints that poor nations were being sidelined clouded hopes of a deal.

However leaders and top diplomats from around 30 countries crafted an outline agreement in talks that ended in the early hours. After fine-tuning by negotiators, the leaders resumed their talks in the morning before presenting the text to all heads of delegation.

"We tried to find an umbrella political accord, if you like," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency, told reporters.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, chairman of the tortuous negotiations, warned against premature celebrations. "We've had a very constructive dialogue (but) ... we're not there yet," he said.

A European delegate said the draft contained a call to prevent a rise in global temperatures of more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.

But he said there were few specifics on mitigation efforts nor on funding.

"Basically its become clear its going to be just a political declaration, its short on detail at the moment," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The two degrees declaration would stop way short of demands from poorer countries. Small island nations, their very existence threatened by rising seas, have called for a cap of 1.5 C (2.7 F).

Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said any rise above the 1.5 C mark would cause "unmanageable consequences."

"It will leave millions of people suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages," he said.

The South African Nobel prize winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu said a two degree rise would "condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development."

"This is a moral issue, it is a mater of justice for especially the weak and most vulnerable," Tutu added.

An internal UN memo seen by AFP earlier had shown national pledges for reducing greenhouse gas output would doom the world to warming of up to three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists say such a rise would be disastrous, condemning hundreds of millions of people to worsening drought, floods and storms.

Diplomats said the draft accord outlines a package for poor countries most vulnerable to the ravages of an overheating world, kicking off with 10 billion dollars (seven billion euros) a year from 2010 to 2012, and climbing to 100 billion annually by 2020.

After days of deadlock, the mood brightened Thursday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would contribute to the fund, a move welcomed by the G77 bloc of developing countries as "a good signal" but not enough.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had warned that the planet's biggest ever meeting on climate faced a looming disaster because of the disputes on emissions cuts, saying failure "would be catastrophic for all of us".

Clinton accused developing nations -- without naming them -- of backsliding on pledges to open their promised controls on carbon emissions to wide scrutiny, saying the issue is "a deal-breaker for us".

China and India say they are willing to take voluntary measures to slow their surges in heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions.

But they are reluctant to accept tough international inspection and insist rich nations shoulder the main burden by accepting huge reduction targets.

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