UN: Next 24 Hours ‘Critical’ for Global Warming Pact

Security Lockdown Coming as 115 World Leaders Descend on Denmark

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Reporting from Copenhagen

The world’s leaders can still forge a global warming pact in Copenhagen but only if major progress is made over the next day, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said this evening at the UN climate change negotiations.

With two days remaining in the international conference, talks remain deadlocked on all major issues.

"The next 24 hours will be absolutely critical," de Boer said. He said the conference must deliver agreements on "adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology and forests."

De Boer’s comments came as climate talks officially moved into the high-level segment. Many of the 115 heads of government joining the conference for its finale will begin arriving at Copenhagen’s Bella Center on Thursday, adding security concerns on top of the pressure of cranking out the framework for one of the most complex treaties ever negotiated.

No Money, No Deal

The key sticking point remains financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, ranging from programs to end deforestation to those that could bring clean energy technology to the developing world.

Without money, developing nations have said, there will be no deal. They’re calling for $200 billion per year by 2020, but as of Wednesday night, there were still no firm commitments from wealthy nations to deliver long-term financing.

"Africa is not prepared to accept empty words and agreements that undermine its fundamental interest," said Ethiopian Prime Minister Males Zenawi, speaking for the Africa group of nations.

The only money on the table is a $30 billion package of "fast-start" funds that would run from 2010 to 2012.

On Wednesday, wealthy nations heralded an agreement to pump $3.5 billion into REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. That money, however, would likely flow from the total pot of kick-start money. It’s also just a fraction of the at least $25 billion in seed funding that poorer forest nations say is needed to begin to slow deforestation.

The EU trumpeted its annual $3.5 billion financing contribution to the kick-start money.

Japan announced its contribution to the fund late Wednesday — a $15 billion pledge for developing nations to 2012, of which $11 billion would come from public financing. It will dedicate the funds only if a "successful political accord is achieved" in Copenhagen. The deal must be "fair and effective" and include major developing emitters, such as China, India and Brazil.

The United States hasn’t put any concrete figures on the table.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who landed in Copenhagen today for a whirlwind 24 hours of negotiating, said it is essential "to talk" long-term finance, but "the most important thing" is securing a short-term deal.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission said: "The EU has made an important contribution for financing. We need an American partner and a Chinese partner."

Emissions Targets and Bracketed Text

The scale of CO2 emissions-reduction targets by rich nations is creeping toward 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, far more ambitious than the United States’ proposal, but well below what scientists say is necessary to slow climate change. The G77 plus China are calling for an aggregate target of 40 percent from 1990 by 2020.

The U.S. is adamant about a strong review and verification system that would tie financing in poor nations to their national carbon-fighting goals. For its part, the developing world wants to ensure that a strong legal deal is in place before the Kyoto Protocol gets dumped for a broader pact that covers the United States.

Neither of these has yet to be agreed upon.

The Danish government released another draft text, which China said would kill Kyoto and strongly favor the rich. In the end, and after much debate, the basic document emerged full of bracketed text, meaning most, if not all, of the major issues will likely be sent up to the heads of government for resolution in the last hours of talks.

A deal could happen in the "last minutes," Barroso said.

De Boer minimized the Danish draft, saying "it could serve a useful role as "a bridge-building exercise where things are stuck." A flurry of documents are on the table.

"Countries have great attachments to the documents that they themselves produced," he said.

Security Crack-Down Coming

With so many heads of state on the way, and after a day that saw 3,000-plus protesters trying to break into the conference center and a "number of incidents inside," de Boer suggested that the relatively lax security and openness of the first week-and-a-half of talks may soon be ending.

Specifically, de Boer said he was frustrated with people "organizing," "climbing on the podium" and "interrupting meetings." He also said that "strange packages" had been found in various places.

The interruptions were "way beyond anything we have ever seen in this process," he said.

During G-8, G-20 and EU summits, attended by far fewer world leaders, "whole city centers are closed off with containers and war ships circling the venue," de Boer said. The Copenhagen process stands alone in its degree of access and transparency, he said. But perhaps not for long.

"The incidences that have taken place today inside the conference center test my courage to continue in this way," he added.

As a first security precaution, most of the over 22,000 members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were stripped of their badges today and denied access to the Bella Center, the summit’s central command center. The UN announced it had set up an alternative facility for the groups.

"I’m in a huge dilemma," de Boer said. While he’s "proud" of the transparency of the process, he said, "at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility for your safety and the safety of other participants."

"Many of the 115 heads of government that will begin arriving tomorrow will come with their own security teams. They will have to make the judgment of whether it’s safe to bring their heads of state into a situation like this where they’re likely to be very directly confronted by protesters."


See also:

Civil Society Groups Squeezed Out of Climate Talks in Final Days

Developing Countries Weather Global Warming, Cold Shoulders

Poor Nations Will End Deforestation by 2030 if Rich Deliver Billions: New Copenhagen Text

Poor Nations to Drop Deforestation Targets if No Funding from Rich

Tech Transfer Stymied by Lack of Climate Funding from Rich

In Letter to Obama, Major US Businesses Call for Leadership at Copenhagen


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