Copenhagen Conference on the Brink of Collapse as World Leaders Arrive at Talks

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The Guardian/UK

Copenhagen Conference on the Brink of Collapse as World Leaders Arrive at Talks

by
Suzanne Goldenberg, John Vidal and Jonathan Watts in Copenhagen

Lars Lokke Rasmussen, left, prime minister of Denmark, with Rajendra Pachauri, centre, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the UN climate chief Yvo de Boer. (Photograph: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

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."

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