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Copenhagen Conference on the Brink of Collapse as World Leaders Arrive at Talks
Talks to save the planet from catastrophic climate change were on the brink of collapse this morning as officials from the three main blocs - rich countries, major developing economies, and small island states - said they had given up on getting a substantive deal.
Even as 115 world leaders began arriving to put their personal imprint on a deal, the summit hosts were admitting they had failed to broker an agreement.
The chaotic end game to the negotiations could mean that world leaders only have time to hastily paper over a face-saving agreement.
In a story headlined Denmark gives up, the influential Berlingske newspaper quoted a senior source in the host delegation, saying the failure was a monumental disappointment to the Danes.
"During the whole process, the problem is that this is a huge puzzle where all the pieces had to fall in place at the same time. But to do that, the countries had to make a serious effort and they have been unwilling to do so," the source was quoted as saying.
However, Denmark could try to revive the process by formally introducing a version of a negotiating draft from last week and imposing it on the summit. However, the draft - the Danish text leaked to the Guardian last week - has infuriated developing countries, and its re-entry could trigger chaos.
Other countries were also working to resuscitate the talks. A UK official said: "We are not giving up. The irony is that on substance we have had considerable movement in the last few days. For the talks to be in this state simply over matters of procedure rather than substance is immensely disappointing."
The sense of collapse was compounded further still when China - the world's biggest emitter and an essential component to any deal - said it saw no possibility of achieving a detailed accord to tackle global warming.
An official from another country told Reuters the Chinese had instead suggested issuing "a short political declaration of some sort", but it was not clear what that declaration would say.
China was still committed to the negotiations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing today. Jiang said: "China hopes the Copenhagen meeting is successful, and has always taken a constructive attitude."
In the final nail in Copenhagen's coffin, the Maldives president, Mohamed Nasheed, whose island country could be almost entirely swallowed up by rising seas, said he was staring at failure.
"We will not have a draft. There is no draft. We are facing a situation where it is possible that nothing comes out of COP15 unless the heads of state decide to come up with it themselves," Nasheed told an NGO meeting last night. "I am very nervous and very disappointed. During the course of the last two years, negotiators were supposed to have come up with a document for us to see and consider tomorrow, but they have failed."
Dino Patti Djalal, an Indonesian presidential spokesman said: "Obviously we are considered at the prospect of negotiations are having some kind of a deadlock. We are thinking it's going to need the leaders pushing very hard until the last minute." He said uncertainty about emissions cuts from the major developed countries plus America's insistence on a monitoring regime for emissions cuts by rapidly emerging economies had led to the impasse.
The Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, "We have lost a day and a half. I don't want to point fingers. We must get talks back on a sold substantive track by the time the world leaders meet tomorrow...I am hopeful that negotiations can resume."
The sense of despair from the Danes comes after nine days of working negotiations which has seen increasing acrimony and distrust between rich countries and poor countries, and industrialised countries and the rapidly emerging economies.
African countries and small island states which are on the frontline of climate change accused Denmark of trying to railroad them into a deal without getting strong enough commitments to act on climate change from the developed world. "The Europeans have broken the African solidarity," said a negotiator from Mauritania. "If these talks produce a good deal for Africa that would be a big surprise for me. There is enormous pressure on the heads of state of Africa. They are very weak - especially in financial terms. Any African country that depends on French or British aid will not be able to raise its voice to object."