China, India snag emissions deal

Key developing states seen working to block joint commitment to greenhouse gas cuts

by Eric Johnston

COPENHAGEN — China, India and other developing countries were accused of trying to block last-minute efforts Friday morning by world leaders to end a nearly two-week climate change conference with a political agreement on greenhouse gas emission cuts.

“The talks have been temporarily suspended and China, India and some other countries are blocking agreement,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters just before noon Friday.

“We hope for an ambitious and strategic and responsible accord, and the U.S. view is close to ours. We want to set a target of 2 degrees Celsius. However, India and some other countries are opposed. There’s much tension, but things are slowly progressing,” Sarkozy said.

In his Friday address to the delegates of the so-called COP15 conference, U.S. President Barack Obama called for greater transparency, warning that without such guarantees, any agreement signed in Copenhagen was merely a piece of paper with no meaning.

“At this point, the question is whether we will move forward together or split apart, and whether we prefer posturing to action. We can embrace this accord or we can choose to delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years,” Obama said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meanwhile told delegates that China’s action to reduce its emissions rose voluntary, indicating his country would not adhere to the demands of developed countries for it to be codified in an international treaty.

“We have not attached any condition to the target, nor have we linked it to the target of any other country,” he said.

In a meeting Thursday evening with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Wen said China wants the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to be extended, and his nation was not obliged to join it. But Hatoyama reportedly said that because the protocol only covers countries that account for between 27 percent and 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, a new, broader, international framework was needed.

The logjam in negotiations appeared broken Thursday by the arrival of nearly 120 heads of state and the Thursday financial pledges from Japan and the U.S. And by early Friday it appeared a political agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions might finally be in the offing.

But according to Sarkozy, differences between developed countries and major developing economies over the level of transparency needed on their recently announced emissions reductions plans were holding up an agreement.

Many world leaders, including Hatoyama and Obama, were scheduled to leave Copenhagen later Friday afternoon while the outcome of the conference remained unclear.

A three-page draft of a provisional agreement was being circulated among delegates Friday morning, and reports were that it was vague and repeated previously agreed upon general emissions reductions goals like a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 that were made at other international summits earlier this year.

The Thursday announcement by Clinton that the U.S. would work with other countries to eventually provide $100 billion annually by 2020 for long-term climate change adaptation was greeted with relief by leaders in developed countries as a game-changer that could help produce a deal.

But developing countries, especially in the African group of nations, remained skeptical over the details of Clinton’s announcement, which were considered vague. One African leader suggested Thursday afternoon that no deal was better than a bad deal.