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Sticking points at Copenhagen summit

By Darryl D'Monte

There are various sticking points in the climate talks at Copenhagen, including the $10 billion a year that leaders of industrial countries have offered as short-term financing to cope with climate change, when the need is for $200 billion

Copenhagen, December 14: As the Copenhagen summit moves into the second but inconclusive week, participants are resorting to a range of protests and demonstrations, in the forlorn hope that the 120 heads of state, who arrive on December 16, will be forced to act. 

While the massive demonstration in the capital on Sunday, variously estimated at 25,000- to 100,000-strong, was a reaffirmation of faith on the part of protestors, the deliberations at the Bella Centre, the conference venue, seem very much business as usual – precisely what the UN meet is trying to convince developing countries to move away from when it comes to their energy consumption. 

Peaceful protestors greeted participants inside the Bella Centre conference venue this morning, under the watchful eye of the police, because of the severe cold outside. One group tried to beat them at their own game and dressed up as policewomen to ‘arrest’ delegates as they scurried past to their interminable meetings and briefings. The protests lack the colour of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg a decade later. In Rio particularly, Brazilian Indian chiefs lit up the stage when they turned up in full regalia, replete with garish feathers and war paint. 

The sticking point, on the eve of this week’s ensuing ‘political’ turn of events are two texts, the first of which is by the working group of the Kyoto Protocol and the latter its counterpart for the “long-term cooperative action” to be decided upon. The latter proposes a 45% cut in emissions of industrial countries by 2020 from 1990 levels, twice what the EU, the most proactive, has agreed to. It will offer 30% if the US also comes on board with a generous offer. 

While India, despite the arrival over the weekend of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, has yet to make its presence felt in Copenhagen, the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and African countries are becoming the most belligerent and threatening to pull out if the talks do not conclude satisfactorily. They obviously stand to lose the most, either by being submerged by ocean level rise or turning into deserts with recurring droughts. 

Marcelo Furtado of Greenpeace, representing the Climate Action Network, the biggest coalition of such groups, notes that despite 100 days of negotiation since the UN Bali conference, the conference resembles the scene of a crime, with yellow tape demarcating the ‘victims’ as they lie prostrate on the floor, as protestors were play-acting today. He derided the $10 billion a year which leaders of industrial countries had offered as short-term financing to cope with climate change, a far cry from the $200 billion needed. 

Pouring scorn on the excuse that funds weren’t available, he cited how rich countries spent $40 billion a year on dog and cat food, while his Brazilian government had spent $12 billion as tax concessions during the financial crisis. 

“This is the moment in history when we need action,” he exhorted. Even when Brazilians tried to abolish the slave trade 120 years ago, plantation owners said they couldn’t do this because it would raise agricultural prices. It was similar to what was happening at the summit. 

“What are you (political leaders) coming here for: greenwash?” he demanded to know. “Are we telling countries that you have succeeded? The real decisions are more important than the minutiae of the debate.” 

He said developing countries wanted “to jump out of the ship they were on, but don’t know where they will be falling. They could well be falling into the depths of the ocean.” 

Infochange News & Features, December 2009