COPENHAGEN - The U.N. Climate Change Conference enters its final week under a cloud of uncertainty as the Africa Group led a protest of the developing world against a perceived attempt to abandon the Kyoto Protocol.
Monday found long lines of delegates and observers waiting to clear security at the Bella Center's entrance. The now-familiar invitations to this or that side event in the background, you could hear people discussing the fate of precious clauses over the weekend, and murmurings of trouble brewing in the official process.
One of the day's early press conferences found the Africa Group unhappy with the way the formal discussions are being structured. The group spoke against an order of business that seems to follow a developed country preference to discuss a single track for negotiations. Africa prefers to continue with parallel discussions that would preserve the imperfect but legally-binding structure of the Kyoto Protocol while negotiations continue over a binding replacement for the long term.
By the middle of the day, the Africa Group's displeasure had brought official talks to a halt. Africa told the chair of the working group on a long-term treaty that it would simply not participate in any negotiations or contact group discussions until movement restarted on the parallel discussion of the Kyoto Protocol.
The protest was supported by AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and quickly became a G77 position, stalling the talks.
The Climate Action Network, in its daily media briefing on the state of negotiations, announced that having studied the various commitments on the table as the new week began, a deal signed on that basis today would lead to increased emissions that would mean an estimated 3.9 degree rise in the average global temperature.
The network, a coalition of 450 environmental and social justice organizations from around the world, said there had been progress by negotiators on technical cooperation and building capacity towards a plan to reduce damage to forests. Two years of very slow progress had been rapidly advanced by the release of draft texts by the chairs of the working groups, the network said, although little had been achieved on difficult political issues.
Several key points were highlighted, including disagreement over emissions targets, the question of long-term financing, and the scale of such support.
China and other major polluters from the developing world have proposed only conservative targets for reducing emissions - failure that is linked to the reluctance of developed countries to pledge significant funding to the roughly $200 billion a year that will be needed for adaptation, mitigation, technology transfers and capacity building.
As growing numbers of ministers arrived in Denmark, the Climate Action Network stressed that the biggest failure thus far was political leadership.
Marcelo Furtado, executive director of Greenpeace Brazil, said it was clear the negotiators had not been given mandates allowing them to resolve thorny questions.
Furtado pointed out that when Brazilian industry resisted the abolition of slavery 120 years ago, maintaining that they could not afford it, the moral argument that was raised prevailed in the end.
"Here we are 120 years later, looking at a very similar scenario. People are saying there is no moral discussion, (the debate has been) only about technology, only about finance," the Greenpeace campaigner said.
Where major, long-term funding is called for, the developed world has thus far offered only short-term financing. Emerging economies such as China, India and South Africa have not responded to the call for them to make firm commitments to act quickly to reduce their emissions.
"The challenge this week is to ask for vision, responsibility and leadership. And that falls on the shoulders of everyone: of developing countries like Brazil, China and India who will have to agree to their commitments being measured and verified, but also to the developed countries that ought to put money on the table and show willingness to raise their ambitions," Furtado said.
India's negotiator told the press last week that its priority was economic growth and adaptation to harmful effects, with mitigation taking a back seat. South Africa's behavior was soundly condemned at another press conference, where Friends of the Earth International criticized a massive new World Bank loan to the country (double its total commitment to renewable energy worldwide) for the construction of massive new coal-fired plants.
A deal to reduce emissions due to deforestation has been prominent since the start of the conference. But on this front, campaigners were concerned that over the weekend vital safeguards for indigenous people have been moved out of the legally-enforceable main body of the text, to the preamble.
Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness pointed to Papua New Guinea, Ghana - speaking for the Africa Group - and India as having worked over the weekend to remove the clear phrase saying parties "shall implement" and replace it with the much weaker "should protect".
If these safeguards are lost, Reeve said, there are no guarantees for indigenous people's rights in REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).
*This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.