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12/17/2009 12:36 PM     print story email story  

Copenhagen Summary: Signs of Hope?

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Developed nations rounded up additional pledges for adaptation and mitigation funding in Copenhagen on Wednesday, and on Thursday developing nations won a procedural battle that has slowed negotiations over the past week and a half.

Japan stepped up with a large commitment to add about $19.5 billion to short-term funding for developing nations for the years 2010-2012, according to an AFP report. Along with previous commitments of $10.6 billion by the European Union, this is enough to fund the $10 billion a year proposed for this time period. 

The U.S. has yet to commit to commit to specific funding amounts. 

Thursday morning, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who is presiding over the remainder of the conference, said he would abandon an attempt to combine various negotiating texts into a single document for review by heads of state in the final hours. (Reuters reporting)

Developing nations have repeatedly protested against the creation of such a text, arguing that it benefits industrialized nations and their desire to create a single unifying agreement to replace Kyoto Protocol. 

Delegates agreed to split talks into two tracks--one looking at further commitments by developed nations except the United States to cut emissions until 2020 and another looking at ways to get all nations to slow climate change.

UN Climate Secretary Yvo De Boer on Wednesday asked the U.S. to make a specific proposal on climate financing to developing countries, according to the Xinhua News Agency. He noted that the US is in a difficult position, not having taken steps to slow emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. He also said he believes China's offer to reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions 40-45% by 2020 is "very encouraging."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived on Thursdsay and said the US is willing to participate in a $100-billion-a-year fund through the year 2020, but that China must be willing to allow for verification of its emissions reduction efforts.

Although Clinton did not give a specific US contribution figure, the commitment was considered a breakthrough, leading de Boer to say: "“Hold tight. Mind the doors. The cable car is moving again.” 

Clinton said the money would be a mix of public and private funds, including “alternative sources of finance.” Typically in multilateral financial efforts the United States contributes about 20% according to the New York Times.

Reuters on Wednesday quoted an unnamed Western negotiator who said China told participants it saw no possibility of achieving a detailed accord to tackle global warming. But on Thursday, China refuted the story as a rumor meant to lay blame on China, should negotiations fail.

China's climate change ambassador Yu Qingtai said "Copenhagen is too important to fail." He said the Chinese delegation "came to Copenhagen with hope and have not given it up." (Reuters reporting)

China has softened its stance against mandatory verification of its promised emissions reductions, according to a separate Reuters story. The country's head negotiator Su Wei said "national communications" on emissions as outlined by the Kyoto Protocol would be sufficient.

"It will not be difficult for us to find a solution to this problem (verification), as long as we adhere to the principles of the convention, it is not a crucial problem," he said.

Another hopeful sign that developing and developed nations may be moving closer on their demands is that Africa reportedly scaled back its expectations for climate aid on Wednesday, according to a report on MSNBC.com. The report did not state by how much, but African nations had previously asked for $40 billion a year in the mid-term.

The US on Wednesday pledged $1 billion to the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) program, bringing total funding for the period 2010-2012 to $3.5 billion.

The New York Times report did not give any details as to the current form of the program. Environmentalists earlier in the week said it had been stripped of important targets and safeguards.

Republican Senator and climate change denier James Inhofe (R-Okla.) made an unwelcomed press appearance Thursday morning, after failing to receive an invite to talk within the conference.

“I am here to make sure the 190 countries here don’t go home with the false impression,” he told a somewhat hostile crowd. “The United States is not going to pass cap and trade.  It just isn’t going to happen. Its chances are zero.”

Fox News reported that "Inhofe often looked like a lamb on his way to slaughter."

Obama arrives in Copenhagen Friday morning. Obama is unlikely to propose a more aggressive emissions reduction target, according to Reuters

However, he may have wiggle room to raise his pledge from 17% below 2005 levels to 20%--the level proposed in a current US Senate bill. 

Combined with specific, big numbers to support Clinton's $100 billion proposal, Obama could prompt agreement to a specific, but non-binding framework on Friday. However, that would likely require other developed nations to push to higher levels for emissions reductions--a brave step in light of US history on Kyoto and the Obama Administration's inability to guarantee cooperation of the US Congress. 

Roughly 24 hours left... Tell us what you think. Please add your comments below.



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