Tensions Climb as Hopes of Deal Take a Nosedive

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

People's assembly. Credit: TerraViva/IPS

People's assembly. Credit: TerraViva/IPS

By Rajiv Fernando*

COPENHAGEN (IPS/Terraviva) Negotiators worked through Tuesday night without a positive outcome on providing financing for poor countries, commitments on emission reductions or a legally-enforceable treaty.

NGOs were definitely not happy with the move to limit their access to the conference during the last few days.

Friends of the Earth, who have several thousand members present in Copenhagen, found themselves barred from the conference centre after their leading role in protests outside. Disruptions inside the venue were also putting pressure on the conference organisers to take action.

“It is a crisis of democracy when campaigning charities like Friends of the Earth are prevented from speaking up on behalf of communities around the globe within the talks themselves,” said FoEI executive director Andy Atkins.

“We were stunned to discover that every Friends of the Earth delegate has been banned from attending these crucial talks – if this is a consequence of our role as one of the most prominent groups calling for a strong and fair agreement, this is even more disturbing.”

What may have come as a disappointment to some was a surprising move at the beginning of the high level talks. COP 15 President Connie Hedegaard resigned from her position. It was announced that she would still be involved in negotiations with ministers in closed ministerial meetings but Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over duties guiding the conference.

Rasmussen seemed to struggle in his new role, when what must have been only the third or fourth sentence he uttered as conference president was interrupted by a point of order. Led by Brazil and China, the developing world insisted on absolute clarity that the draft text being discussed was the one negotiators had wrestled over through the night, and that Rasmussen was not again attempting to abandon the dual track – Kyoto Protocol and long-term successor – that the G77 plus China have insisted upon.

Rasmussen’s efforts to dismiss concerns and proceed were firmly rebuffed, and he had some trouble keeping order and limiting speakers to their allotted five minutes when the agenda was resumed.

With the second speaker, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, Rasmussen certainly knew he had a tough job ahead of him.

Zenawi not only spoke for an extended period, but also came up with his own proposal text – one which undermined the positions of other African negotiators and ministers. Zenawi’s words drew sharp criticism from watching civil society who believed his words threaten the very future of Africa.

“If Prime Minister Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance – he is welcome to – but that is not Africa’s position,” said Mithika Mwenda of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister wasn’t the only one to float a proposal. A leaked Danish text caused considerable commotion during the first week; now, apparently there is a fresh Danish proposal that has not yet been seen.

The Indian Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, did not want to comment without having seen the proposal, but he did tell TerraViva, “It could have been handled in a better way. But still they have said that they would indicate the two texts, the LCA and the KP text, into one Danish text. Let us see whether they have done that.”

In terms of the United States and its acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol, Ramesh said, “The sense we get is that Kyoto is in intensive care if not dead. Kyoto needs a number of oxygen cylinders. One of them is in the White House.”

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

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