Clashes in and outside of UN climate negotiations lower expectations leaders will get the agreement they seek

Publish date: December 16, 2009

COPENHAGEN – Danish police fired tear gas and beat with batons protestors who tried to jump barriers around the UN climate summit Wednesday, as the chill of more dispute ran through meeting halls inside the negotiations centre, leaving numerous issues dangling in the final 48 hours before world leaders expect to sign an agreement.

No protestors penetrated the cordon, but the march brought swift security action that immediately closed access to the Bella Center negotiations facility for all civil society organisation representatives that were not already inside the building. From Thursday on, only a very small handful of representatives from such groups will be allowed in.

A more gradual wind down of NGO delegates had earlier been planned, and on Wednesday, Bellona had to close its room in the Bella Center and cancel the rest of its side events there. An alternative venue for observer organisations was quickly organised by the Danish NGO-network Peoples’ Climate Action (PCA), a Danish foreign ministry statement said.

Connie Hedegaard, former Danish climate minister, stepped down from the conference presidency to allow her boss, Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, to preside over statements in the main Tycho Brahe plenary room, while she continues to oversee the closed door negotiations.

Meanwhile, climate talks were clearly deadlocked in a hangover from yesterday’s ever-expanding negotiating text that had by this morning split, according to a party delegate source, into two parallel but differing takes on what the eventual document should look like.

By the early afternoon, they seem to have coalesced into one, parts of which were viewed by Bellona Web.  The text, which was confirmed by a party delegate source to be genuine, shows that several bedrock issues still remain airborne in the 11th hour.

Among these were the size of emissions cuts by developed nations, how financing should be raised and distributed – which may not make it into the final document, said the source. The financial section consists entirely of paragraphs marks off by square brackets, meaning that none of it has been agreed to by negotiators.

The document also showed that it is still uncertain where the Copenhagen deal will shoot when aiming for a global temperature rise – 2 degrees Celsius, 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 1 degree Celsius. Again, the temperatures were marked off by brackets.

Also in limbo are figures for emissions cuts by developed nations, except for the United States. The cuts range from 15 percent by the period of 2013-2017 to 49 percent by 2013-2020.

Wednesday’s high-level session held in the Bella Center’s Tycho Brahe plenary room, which was addressed by prime ministers and other dignitaries, was delayed when several developing countries protested about procedural issues.

China said the process chosen by the Danish hosts “lacked transparency” in reference a proliferation of rewritten texts were being pushed through without proper consultation – a frequent complaint throughout the talks while apparent leaks of differing negotiating texts continue to circulate.

The appearance of Andreas Calgren, Sweden’s environmental minister at the high level session offered the first promise of the day that some accord might be reached.

Calgren’s was an eloquent statement on behalf of the EU strategy as he sought to mend fences with Africa bloc nations, who insist that ongoing talks include discussions of extending the Kyoto Protocol – a position the EU generally opposes.

“The EU recognises actions taken by developing countries,” Calgren said in reference to tensions remaining after a Monday walk out of mailnly African nations to demand continued Kyoto emissions cut commitments from wealthy countries.

“But we are still going to have to cut emissions,” he said, “adding, “We did out best to uphold Kyoto, but it only accounts for one third of the world’s emissions – we need something better.

Calgren also raised the bar on prospective financial commitments to developing countries, saying a fund of $145 billion per year should be made immediately available to countries in need, and urged other EU nation to dig deeper for so-called “fast track” funding introduced by an EU summit last week that called for only $10 billion a year for the next three years.

Calgren was met with rousing applause and was congratulated by Rasmussen for “raising the tone of the high level segment.”

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, whose country participated in Monday’s 132 member walk out, however, was not mollified.

“A system of making promises is just a system to make us forget promises already made,” said Wade.  “If I count up all the promises – I’ve been to eight meetings like this that add up to $200 billion; where is it?”

Shortly after Wade’s statements, a bloc of demonstrators who had gained access to the plenary room began to chant “social justice now,” and cast whistling and buzzing noisemakers about.

The disruption lasted for about five minutes. Security officials would not say what affiliation, if any, the group of about 10 claimed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to lower expectations on the outcome in Copenhagen in a series of interviews with reporters.

Ban told reporters that the Copenhagen agreement will lead to a legally binding treaty next year. He also said that he didn’t think it was necessary for the negotiations here to lead to a firm long-term financial figure for developing countries.

“If they are not able to agree this time at Copenhagen, then there needs to be some initial arrangement,” Ban said.

“This is a time when common sense, compromise and partnership should prevail.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get our latest news

Stay informed