Climate Talks Deadlocked As Clashes Erupt Outside
Danish police and protesters clashed outside the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday, as disputes inside the 193-nation summit threatened to derail a historic global warming agreement.
Police clad in riot gear used truncheons and fired tear gas in a running battle with environmental protesters angered at their exclusion from the summit and the slow pace of the talks. More than 200 demonstrators were detained, police said.
Inside the Bella Center, where the forum was being held, negotiators appeared deadlocked after a frustrating evening of talks on key issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and financing poor countries' efforts to cope with climate change.
The impasse led Connie Hedegaard, former Danish climate minister, to resign from the conference presidency in order to allow her boss, Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, to preside over two days of formal meetings involving world leaders. Hedegaard was to continue overseeing closed-door negotiations.
With presidents and prime ministers from 115 nations streaming into Copenhagen, delegates were hoping to have something for the leaders to sign before the summit closes Friday.
"I regret to report we have been unable to reach agreement," John Ashe of Antigua, chairman of one negotiating group, told the conference Wednesday morning.
During the overnight talks, the American delegation apparently objected to a proposed text it felt might bind the United States prematurely to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, before Congress acts on the required legislation. U.S. envoys insisted, for example, on replacing the word "shall" with the conditional "should."
"A lot of things are in play," said Fred Krupp of the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund. "This is the normal rhythm of international negotiations."
Faced with complaints from developing nations about such changes, the Danish leaders of the talks crafted what they hoped would be a compromise text. But representatives from Brazil and China objected, wanting to stick with the current draft agreement.
Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di Aping, who represents a large group of developing countries, also disagreed, saying negotiators should not be expected to "rubber-stamp a text coming out of the blue."
A lot of tough issues remain. One of the toughest is establishing a mechanism for long-term financing to help poor countries deal with climate change. Rich nations have balked at the large amounts of money that would be required for decades to come.
The developing world — which is expected to bear the brunt of coastal flooding and drought forecast by rising temperatures — wants to limit the allowable temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Developed nations and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are pushing for a 2-degree ceiling.
"This global temperature should be limited within 2C. That's what we are aiming at this time," Ban said. "Of course, the lower temperature would be good. In such a case, we may not be able to agree on anything. That means no deal, no agreement — that is the worst scenario.
"Therefore, what I'm urging the leaders is that we must have a deal. We cannot leave ... Copenhagen without any deal."
On the subject of financing for developing nations, Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there at least has to be a clear signal that the money will eventually flow.
"If there's no, at least, prospect for significant long-term finance, there's no deal at the end of the week," Meyer said.
The United States and Europe have agreed to a relatively small short-term fund that would be available immediately. But that funding would disappear in a few years, and it is not clear what would come next.
Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought, and diseases spreading more widely. But skeptics, including a small minority of climate scientists, insist that there is either no demonstrable rise in temperature or that the evidence for it being man-made is nonexistent.
Environmental activists say not enough is being done to tackle the issue. Tens of thousands of them rallied in Copenhagen's streets last weekend, and hundreds marched on the Bella Center on Wednesday, where they were met by lines of riot police.
Some demonstrators said they wanted to take over the global conference and turn it into a "people's assembly." They were hit with pepper spray as they approached the police cordons. TV images showed a man being pushed from the roof of a police van and struck with a baton by an officer.
From NPR's Scott Neuman, Richard Harris, David Kestenbaum and wire reports
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