Last Updated: Wed Nov 03, 2010 13:28 pm (KSA) 10:28 am (GMT)

World leaders gather amid climate pact warnings

Environmental activists dressed as clowns demonstrate in Copenhagen
Environmental activists dressed as clowns demonstrate in Copenhagen

World leaders gather at climate talks on Wednesday after United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urged them to seize a "defining moment in history" and seal a global pact to halt the juggernaut of climate change.

Negotiators in Copenhagen have just three days left to broker one of the most ambitious yet complex deals in human history, but days of bitter wrangling between key players have provoked grim warnings of failure.

China and the United States -- the world's two biggest carbon polluters -- have brushed aside European calls for concessions on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the thorniest issue of all at the U.N. talks.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

The summit aims to secure national pledges to curb the heat-trapping carbon gases wreaking havoc with Earth's climate system, and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars for poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Ban told world leaders at the opening of the full ministerial session on Tuesday they faced a "defining moment in history."

"We know what we must do. We know what the world expects. Our job here and now is to seal the deal, a deal in our common interest."

"Very difficult" to seal a deal

 We can't risk failure. No one here can carry that responsibility. That means that the keyword for the next two days must be compromise 
Conference chairwoman Connie Hedegaard

Talks were moving too slowly, he warned, making it difficult for the leaders to reach agreement in the remaining days.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said sealing a deal was going to be "very difficult" with many issues to be resolved.

Former U.S. vice president and environmental activist Al Gore called for world leaders to meet in Mexico City in July to complete the process.

But reflecting the deadlock, a new draft text gave no figures for a long-term goal of reducing emissions, a peak for emissions, an intended limit to warming, nor on financing for poor countries exposed to climate change.

These core questions were farmed out to small parties of ministers, charged with brokering a consensus by Friday when some 120 heads of state and government are to reach an outline political deal.

Any Copenhagen pact would be fleshed out next year in further talks, culminating in a treaty that would take effect from 2013.

Conference chairwoman Connie Hedegaard of Denmark said success was still within reach.

But she added: "We can't risk failure. No one here can carry that responsibility. That means that the keyword for the next two days must be compromise."

But both China and the United States appeared in little mood to move on the key issue of emissions.

Carbon emissions

 Both want to keep every option open up to the last hours of the conference... We don't have much time left 
German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen

U.S. President Barack Obama has offered to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark, a figure that aligns with legislation put before the U.S. Congress.

The offer by the United States, the world's second biggest polluter after China, has been widely criticized by other parties as inadequate.

"I am not anticipating any change in the mitigation commitment," said U.S. chief delegate Todd Stern, explaining that it was tied to legislation currently before Congress.

Beijing's climate ambassador said China's voluntary plan for braking the forecast growth in its emissions was not open to negotiation.

"We announced those targets, we don't intend to put them up for discussion," Yu Qingtai told reporters.

China also said Wednesday it was opposed to "carbon tariffs" being imposed on the developing world, an idea floated in Europe and the United States.

Europe, which has already pledged to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020 in comparison with 1990 and offered to go to 30 percent if others follow suit, said the big polluters had to relent on cuts.

"There are two countries in the world representing half the emissions of the world, and that's the United States and China," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the 27-nation European Union.

European powerhouse Germany likewise pointed the finger.

"Both want to keep every option open up to the last hours of the conference... We don't have much time left," said its environment minister Norbert Roettgen.

EU leaders last week agreed a package of 7.2 billion euros ($10.6 billion) in aid to help developing countries tackle global warming.

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