Again, the two big topics are the differences over the Kyoto Protocol (and by extension, how big and how binding different countries’ commitments will be) and the transfer of money from wealthy to poor nations to help with the cost of adapting to and mitigating climate change.
African leaders are taking a strong stand on Kyoto, walking out of one of the meetings yesterday and suspending talks for several hours. Developing countries support Kyoto because is legally binding. But developed countries want a new agreement that includes the US – which will never ratify a Kyoto-based agreement – and big emerging polluters such as China, which were not covered in the protocol.
As Andrew Ward explains in the FT’s daily podcast, this kind of brinkmanship, so close to the arrival of heads of state to nut out an agreement, raises questions about how reconcilable the two views are. But developing countries are also impatient – with one representative telling the Washington Post “We wasted a whole Sunday exchanging the same rhetoric. I’ve heard it all.”
The other make-or-break issue at Copenhagen is funds for developing countries. FT’s Fiona Harvey describes a new draft agreement on financing, but so far it does not specify crucial details such as criteria for financial transfer, how it will be administered and, above all, amounts of money. It does however provide for those agreements to be worked out either late in the meeting, when the heads of state are present, or even some time next year. Meanwhile US negotiator Todd Stern has kept his cards close on even a short-term financing commitment – and all this lack of detail is only aggravating the concerns of developing nations. Bloomberg quotes a US source saying that the country may make a financing commitment, but only to 2012 and not the 2020 target sought by developing countries.
Tensions between China and the US have escalated in recent days, the New York Times reports, with officials from the two countries trading accusations in recent days. The US wants a bigger commitment from China to reduce its emissions intensity, and agree to have cuts monitored. China points out that the US is only committing to a 4 per cent reduction from 1990 levels. Meanwhile the developed world is starting to talk tough with China, Fiona Harvey reports, and the country’s relationship with the rest of the developing world is complex to say the least.
Meanwhile Fiona Harvey explains that the world’s climate negotiators, bound together by their impenetrable jargon and intense late-night sessions, keep in frequent contact between meetings, even using social networking sites. “You do it because you enjoy the pain,” jokes Artur Runge-Metzger, the EU’s chief negotiator says of the process.