Copenhagen Update: Final Day

US President Barack Obama spoke to world leaders at the Copenhagen climate change conference Friday morning, offering no concrete changes in the US negotiating stance.

As a result, hopes for a quantifiable agreement by the end of the day have been deflated. 

Obama reiterated the statements made yesterday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–the US would join in "fast-start" funding of up to $10 billion a year for mitigation and adaptation for the years 2010-2012, as well as $100 billion a year in midterm funding through 2020. 

He also reemphasized the demand for transparency on the part of developing nations, stating that an agreement to reduce carbon emissions would be a "hollow victory" if it was not verifiable. 

Many environmentalists had hoped Obama would come to the podium with specific, additional promises for generous funding and slightly deeper emissions cuts–perhaps 20% below 2005 levels, instead of the 17% offered. However, he stood pat, presumably feeling he was at the end of his political rope with the US Congress and voters. (Reuters reporting)

Talks have currently broken for lunch, and according to minute-by-minute reporting on the TimesOnline, Obama is in a closed-door session with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other major heads-of-state attempting to hammer out the final details of what will be offered at the close of the day. 

It appears that the options are a) a political statement or b) a weak agreement of some sort. Many environmentalists believe the first option is preferable, leaving open the possibility of a stronger agreement in the months ahead. 

The document here, is reportedly the one being polished up behind closed doors, although other reports suggest this document was rejected by developing nations earlier this morning.

After heads of state gather for a photo-op and show of solidarity this evening, it is likely that environmental ministers and negotiators will remain in Copenhagen for another day or two to continue talks and perhaps work out supporting details for any agreement reached this afternoon. 

Talks continued straight through the night on Thursday, though little progress was made, according to French President Nicolas Sarkozy who said China "has trouble accepting the idea of a monitoring body." (Reuters reporting)

Sarkozy’s comment, as well as Obama’s continued insistence on transparency, suggest that developing nation’s do not accept China’s view that "national communications" outlined in the Kyoto Protocol would be sufficient for verifying actions on the part of all nations. There was a sense lat Thursday that this issue had been overcome, with one MSNBC report stating that China had agreed to "open its books on carbon emissions to international review." This now appears to be incorrect.

The other big breaking story this morning concerns a leaked United Nations analysis that shows emissions cuts currently offered by developed nations would result in 3 degrees celsius of warming, well above the 2 degrees agreed upon in the Bali roadmap. (Guardian reporting)

The 3 degrees is also twice the level of 1.5 degrees sought by island nations and a group of African nations who appear to be resisting agreement again at this point. Tuvalu, the tiny island nations that led a push for more ambitious carbon targets last week has reportedly reasserted itself, with Tuvaluan Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia declaring, "they should know from the science it will be killing people around the world. I will not sign anything that’s not less than 1.5 degrees."

It should be noted that unanimous agreement is required for a new agreement. Mother Jones reports that more than 100 countries–mostly the smallest and poorest developing nations–insist that the goal should be to keep increased warming below 1.5 degrees celsius. This view matches with that of environmentalists and climate scientists who say a return to 350 parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is necessary to avoid catastrophic warming. Larger developing nations like China, India and Brazil join rich nations in supporting the 2 degrees target. 

We’ll file one more report closer to the end of the day. 

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