Leaked climate agreement widens rich-poor divide

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A row in Copenhagen widened divisions between developed and developing countries yesterday (8 December) over a leaked document spelling out details of a political agreement which is reportedly seen as setting unequal limits per capita carbon emissions between rich and poor countries. But negotiators called for order and a focus on the essentials.

“The text robs developing countries of their just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space. It tries to treat rich and poor countries as equal,” said Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China. 

At the heart of a dispute on the second day of the 12-day summit, the leaked document at the 192-nation UN climate conference in Copenhagen provoked poor countries and activists who complained that the Danish hosts had pre-empted the negotiations with their draft proposal, prepared before the conference began. 

“The behind-the-scenes negotiation tactics under the Danish Presidency have been focusing on pleasing the rich and powerful countries rather than serving the majority of states who are demanding a fair and ambitious solution,” said Kim Carstensen, head of the climate initiative for the environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The leaked agreement, whose initial bits had been seen by Reuters last week, has created a storm in Copenhagen. In principle, the document shows a departure from the Kyoto Protocol, under which only rich nations should take a firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. 

The draft spells out instead new obligations also for developing countries to agree to specific emissions cuts and measures. It does not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes. 

Who controls climate finance?

According to the draft, the control of climate change finance would also fall in the hands of the World Bank, weakening de facto the UN’s role in handling funding. “The Danish government plans are undermining developing countries’ call for a new global climate fund to be managed by the United Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said ActionAid. 

“The World Bank has a very poor record dealing with development and environmental sustainability,” said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s climate change advisor, at the Copenhagen summit. “It’s ironic it’s being suggested as the way forward.” 

Copenhagen rift: Chronicle of a turmoil foretold

The dispute was already in the making. Last week, after the leak initially emerged, India’s environment minister said global climate talks would be at a “dead end” if the Danish draft proposals were put forward. 

But observers now are tying to bring some calm down the climate and return to the essentials. 

“The Danish proposal must not distract from the job at hand. There must be a laser-like focus on the official text of the agreement over the next six days. With just a handful of days to go before a deal is signed, all countries need to focus their efforts on the official process which offers the best chance of a fair, ambitious and binding deal,” said Antonio Hill, climate advisor at Oxfam International. 

“This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations. The only formal texts in the UN process are the ones tabled by the Chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the Parties,” said Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, commenting on the leaked document. 

The global community is currently engaged in negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. 

An agreement on a new treaty is set to be reached at the Copenhagen climate conference in December, but talks have stalled over developed countries' reluctance to commit to concrete financial aid for developing countries and the lack of a commitment to sufficient CO2 reduction targets. 

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