Business, Politics, Sci-Tech

Leaked documents stir a boiling pot at Copenhagen climate conference

By Branko Brkic 9 December 2009

The just-leaked working paper at the Copenhagen climate conference, apparently produced by Denmark, the host country delegation, is generating a storm of criticism from developing countries and NGO climate activist leaders. Opponents are arguing that this draft  – if it were accepted as the basis for formal negotiations - would seriously shift more of the burden of dealing with the effects of climate change onto poorer, less-developed nations.

At the heart of this growing conflict – originating out of two different draft texts attributed respectively to Denmark and China – is a determination by the more impoverished states to take on a smaller burden than more industrialized countries in the effort to slow global warming. These nations argue the crisis is not primarily of their making and that redress should not come at the expense of efforts to industrialize and increase their national economies.

Activists and representatives from the poorer nations are charging that Denmark is attempting to pre-empt the entire tenor of the ongoing negotiations via a draft prepared even before the conference had actually been convened.

This Danish draft appears to lessen distinctions between what developed and developing nations must do to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The draft would apparently allow richer nations to cut fewer emissions even as poorer nations would have to deal with tougher limits on their emissions of greenhouse gases – and accept more conditions on any money made available to them to adapt their economies to deal with greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, a sketchier counter-proposal, apparently the work of the Chinese delegation, would extend the about-to-expire 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This agreement required 37 industrial nations to reduce their emissions of the gases blamed for global warming by an average of 5% by 2012, in comparison to their 1990 levels. This Chinese proposal would add new, even deeper targets for the industrialized world for five to eight more years. On the other hand, the developing countries, in this case including China, would have another, separate agreement that spells out how they would take action on greenhouse gases – but, crucially, not in legally binding way.

While there is a growing storm over the Danish working paper (the kind of thing that in conference-ese is sometimes called a “non-paper”, shorthand for a proposal being floated without formal advocacy or ownership by a delegation) veteran conference observers note that drafts like these are often put forward in a complex, international conference like this one – especially as the conference’s horse-trading gets more intense. In fact, the two drafts were not official conference papers – and some observers argue that this public anger may be an attempt by the Group of 77 (now representing 120 poorer, less-developed nations) to gain leverage against the richer nations, as the conference really begins to take hold.

By J. Brooks Spector

Read more: AP

Photo: Activists from Christian Aid dressed as clocks hold a globe at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009, also known as COP15, in Copenhagen December 9, 2009. REUTERS/Keld Navntoft

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