EU ‘disappointed’ by Chinese, US climate pledges

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Only “a miracle” will allow world leaders to patch together a climate deal in the final hours of the Copenhagen conference, said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after a long-awaited speech by US President Barack Obama had disappointed negotiators. EURACTIV reports from Copenhagen.

“I believe in miracles and a miracle can still happen,” said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Friday (18 December), the final day of the Copenhagen summit.

His optimism, however, was not echoed by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, who declared “it is now obvious that we will not get all we had hoped for”. 

World leaders tried in the morning to unblock deadlocked negotiations on drawing up a political agreement on a roadmap to finalise a legally-binding international climate treaty in 2010. 

Negotiators worked through the night to produce a draft text calling on rich nations to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations tackle climate change and to limit warming to two degrees Celsius. 

But the all-night meeting broke up in the morning without a deal on the central element of a climate deal: the timing and degree of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. 

A three-page text obtained by the Guardian suggests that the level of agreement reached so far is extremely weak. 

The text, drafted by a select group of 28 leaders – including UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown – in the final hours of the negotiations, proposes extending negotiations for another year until the next scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Mexico City in December 2010. 

According to the draft, countries “ought” to limit global warming to 2°C, the level above which scientists say climate change would have catastrophic consequences. 

It does not give specific targets for emissions cuts or a peak year for global emissions, but says only that “deep cuts” are required and that emissions should peak “as soon as possible”. 

“There are deep differences in opinion and views on how we should solve this. We’ll try our best, until the last minutes of this conference,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency. 

‘Fast-start’ financing on track 

Speaking during the morning session, Barroso revealed that negotiations are on track to deliver short-term and long-term financial commitments to help developing countries fight global warming. 

Following pledges by the EU, the US and Japan, the fast-start financing will amount to 30 billion dollars for the period 2010-2012. As for long-term funding, countries spelt out a goal of mobilising jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020, making this conditional upon “meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation”. 

Addressing world leaders, US President Barack Obama repeatedly said that mitigation, transparency and financing is a clear formula “that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities”. 

Monitoring, reporting and verification 

One of the stumbling blocks remains the need for a monitoring, reporting and verification mechanism. Although rich nations favour such a system, many developing countries, including China, fear that that it would be too intrusive and would breach national sovereignty. 

“The question is whether we will move forward together or split apart,” Obama stressed. 

In their interventions, many countries conceded that regardless of the agreement that emerges in Copenhagen, they will embark on ambitious. voluntary plans to cut emissions unilaterally. 

Chinese, Indian pledges 

“We are very vulnerable [to climate change] said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

“We have agreed a voluntary target of 20% by 2020 on 2005 levels. Regardless on the outcome of the conference, we will deliver this target,” Singh said 

Similar pledges were made by China, Brazil and Columbia. “This is a voluntary action China has taken in the light of its national circumstances,” Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said. 

“We have not attached any condition to the target, nor have we linked it to the target of any other country. We will honour our word with real action,” Wen said. “Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target.” 

EU disappointed by US, Chinese pledges 

However, the statements by the United States and China disappointed the EU. “As the biggest polluters of the Earth’s atmosphere these two states have a crucial responsibility for global climate protection,” said Jo Leinen, head of the European Parliament’s delegation in Copenhagen. 

“The poorest part of the world’s population – in particular the inhabitants of small island nations and of many developing countries, would, in case of a failure of the climate conference, fall victim to the power games of the two big powers,” Leinen said. 

“Without the liability of a climate protection accord, neither ambitious reduction targets nor comprehensive financial support will be agreed upon. This would lead to enormous suffering for the part of the world that has the least responsibility for climate change,” he added. 

Outside Copenhagen’s Bella Centre, where world leaders are meeting today, NGOs have been protesting in freezing temperatures. Disheartened by the lack of progress, they said the climate justice movement will grow in strength. 

At the end of their final meeting in Copenhagen, climate justice activists declared that while the talks are in disarray, demonstrators have successfully moved towards building a strong international movement for climate justice. 

Almost 120 prime ministers, presidents and vice-presidents from nations accounting for 89% of the world's gross domestic product began meetings yesterday (17 December) to reach agreement on how to tackle global warming. 

Developing countries are calling on industrialised nations to raise their pledges on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25-40% from 1990 levels by 2020. They are also asking for funding to help them adapt to the damaging effects of climate change and embark on a low-carbon development path. 

Rich nations such as the United States, on the other hand, are finding it difficult to agree on ambitious mid-term targets for 2020. The EU, meanwhile, is promising to up its offer only if other developed nations commit to measures similar to the bloc's existing commitment of cutting emissions by 20% by 2020. 

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