x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Last-ditch bid for climate deal

World leaders will carry on negotiating late into the night in the hope of brokering a deal on the final day of the summit aimed at tackling climate change.

COPENHAGEN // World leaders will carry on negotiating late into the night in the hope of brokering a deal on the final day of the summit aimed at tackling climate change. Barack Obama, the US president, is due to hold a second meeting with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, after the pair spent an hour in discussions earlier in the day. There are reports that delegates had been asked to remain in Copenhagen in the event of negotiations spilling over into the weekend. However, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, left the Danish capital tonight for a scheduled visit to Kazakhstan, the Kremlin said. Yukio Hatoyama, the Japanese prime minister, was also planning to leave but hoped to reach an agreement before doing so, his spokesman said. In his speech to the summit, Mr Obama told leaders to accept an American offer to cut carbon dioxide emissions and help with aid, or leave with nothing. At the close of the two-week conference, the US president sounded impatient and defiant during a short address, in which he said: "It's better to act than talk." As the talks continue, there is no sign of a breakthrough. "No country will get everything that it wants," Mr Obama said. "These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon." Mr Obama offered no new concessions a day after Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, raised hopes of an agreement with a pledge to help raise $100 billion (Dh367bn) a year for poor countries to tackle climate change. Mr Obama's frustration on the lack of progress was borne out by a leaked copy of the agreement, obtained by The National, which showed that negotiators had still not come to agreement on the total amount of emissions cuts needed by industrialised countries to hold global warming to two degrees Celsius.

Negotiators had not even agreed on what to call the document, referring to it merely as "Copenhagen [X]". Mr Obama vowed to cut US emissions even if no agreement was signed. "America is going to continue on this course of action to mitigate our emissions and to move towards a clean energy economy, no matter what happens here in Copenhagen," he said. His address was met with little immediate reaction from world leaders, other than the lack of resounding applause, but environmental groups immediately weighed in. "Obama has deeply disappointed not just those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world," said a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, the British environmental group. Mr Obama and other leaders of the world's biggest economies retreated to lengthy closed-door sessions in the hope of bridging a gaping rift between industrialised and developing countries over the best way to cut emissions and help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change. In its address, delivered as a document to the summit, the UAE voiced sympathy with the position of developing states, known as "non-Annex 1" countries in the existing Kyoto Protocol. Annex 1 refers to industrialised countries bound by emissions targets. "The United Arab Emirates ascertains that success of this conference depends greatly on the understanding of the Annex 1 countries to the concerns, needs and requirements of the developing countries which are more vulnerable to climate change," said Dr Rashid bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water. Mr bin Fahad called for eight principles to be adopted by the Copenhagen conference, including a demand that the existing Kyoto Protocol be extended beyond its 2012 expiration date, and the provision of funding to developing countries that have projects to capture carbon dioxide emissions and bury them underground.

The summit, originally billed as the final round of negotiations for a new treaty to slow global warming, hosted an eclectic mix of leaders. But at its finale, attention centred squarely on the two countries that matter most in any debate about climate - the US and China, the two biggest polluters. Mr Obama's speech came shortly after that of Mr Wen, who again pledged to slow his country's emissions growth but reiterated conditions for accepting an agreement. Mr Wen suggested a unilateral approach, saying China would meet its pledge to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy regardless of any international agreement. A key source of contention was America's demand for an international auditing regime to ensure that developing countries carry out emissions reductions projects. China and others have said the proposal could violate sovereignty, but softened their stance in recent days. The draft of the agreement accepted monitoring for clean energy projects in developing countries funded by aid from industrialised countries, but limited its scope for efforts that are wholly paid for with domestic funds.

cstanton@thenational.ae