Everything Left to Accomplish

Posted on 18 December 2009 by editor

Copenhagen demonstrators and police. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Copenhagen demonstrators and police. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Mantoe Phakathi*

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – “It’s clear now – we’re not getting a binding deal at the end of tomorrow,” said the president of Friends of the Earth-United States, Erich Pica.

Industrialised nations are burying their heads in the sand and poor countries seem set to be forced to continue bearing the burden of global warming. The demonstrations, flyers, news media and all kinds of pressure to get the Western countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and compensate poor countries with financial resources and technology seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Inside the Bella Centre, leaders from different parts of the world delivered more or less the same message about the impacts of climate change and why it is important to help poor countries.

The United States stimulated a lot of media interest when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put her government’s cards on the table. But her proposal of $100 billion a year of funding from 2020 confirmed the arrogance of the developed world: the South is looking for an immediate commitment to roughly $200 billion a year for mitigation, adaptation and technology transfers.

The U.S. plan would take a decade to make half of what developing countries estimate is needed available. Clinton rubbed it in by making even this limited offer conditional on countries such as China and Russia committing to transparent actions on cutting emissions.

“The developed countries are now trying to push the blame to developing countries so that when a deal fails to come up tomorrow, they’ll blame it on China or Russia for refusal to cooperate,” said Pica.

Other observers also noted that the U.S. proposal was silent on practical questions such as where the money will come from, how the fund will grow over the years, and very unclear on when it would end.

Several heads of state, whether by design or default, seem to be shying away from this meeting. Indian Prime Minister Mohamed Singh, who was supposed to fly from India to Copenhagen this afternoon, was reportedly delayed because of a technical problem with his aircraft.

This delay means that a consensus between the four largest developing economies – China, India, Brazil and South Africa – whose leaders were supposed to meet tonight, will take longer to emerge.

U.S. President Barack Obama also did not pitch today, postponing a much-anticipated address to the Conference.

A leaked internal document from the U.N. Secretariat spells out how much remains to be done: assessing the emissions reduction pledges from industrialised nations who are part of the Kyoto protocol and the voluntary offers from everyone else, the expected rise in temperature will be roughly three degrees.

The last day of negotiations now dawns with everything left to accomplish: a yawning gap remains between major blocs of countries, between the negotiations in the Bella Centre and the demands of civil society, and – still – between what the markets can conceive and what scientists say is the minimum needed to protect the diversity of life on this planet.

* Claudia Ciobanu, Servaas van den Bosch and Terna Gyuse contributed to this report.

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