Environment ministers face off at UN climate conference | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 14.12.2009
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Environment ministers face off at UN climate conference

As the UN climate conference in Copenhagen enters its second week, environment ministers are set to hold a series of closed-door meetings in a bid to iron out a draft agreement to combat global warming.

A global depicting slogans against climate change

World leaders have another week to settle differences over a global climate deal

The first week of the climate conference in the Danish capital produced little tangible results, but on Monday China raised hopes that consensus may be achieved after it softened its stance towards developed nations.

The world's biggest polluter conceded on Monday that it did not expect developed nations to underwrite Beijing's efforts to combat climate change.

"Financial resources for the efforts of developing countries (to combat climate change are) a legal obligation," Chinese vice foreign minister He Yafei, China's top negotiator, was quoted by The Financial Times in an interview published on Monday.

"That does not mean China will take a share - probably not ... We do not expect money will flow from the US, UK (and others) to China."

China, which has said it plans to curb 2020 emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels, had initially demanded that developed countries contribute funds for its own climate efforts.

Developing nations lash out

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan

Di-Aping wants more funds for developing nations

Meanwhile developing countries have criticized a European Union offer of 2.4 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in immediate aid as "completely insufficient."

In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, the chairman of the bloc of 130 developing countries, Lumumba Di-Aping, said that abundant funds were readily supplied to address the financial crisis but not when it came to climate change.

The Sudanese diplomat also attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Mrs. Merkel has two faces. At home she is a great ecologist, but when it comes to funds for protecting the climate, she steps on the brakes," Di-Aping said.

EU leaders have pledged a total of 7.2 billion euros for climate protective measures in developing nations over the next three years. However, Di-Aping said that for a viable ecological conversion some 300-500 billion euros were necessary per year.

Di-Aping also formulated ambitious carbon dioxide emission targets, saying that industrial nations must cut their emission by 52 percent by 2017 and by 65 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Failure to meet these targets would result in a temperature increase of 3.75 degrees Celcius and spell out the "death of Africa," Di-Aping said.

Weekend protests

Protestors carry stop watch symbols at a rally in Copenhagen

Protestors carry stop watch symbols at a rally on Sunday

Climate activists pressed ahead with their campaign for a decisive deal to fight global warming over the weekend, holding a peaceful but unauthorized protest in the city center on Sunday.

Described by one officer as "hardcore" protesters, the demonstrators were blocked before they could reach the corporate headquarters of Maersk, the world's largest shipping company, according to media reports.

Eight of the detainees were expected to be charged with the possession of stones and other potential weapons, illegal drugs and violence. The rest were expected to be released during the course of the day, the daily Politiken reported on its website.

Danish government criticized

The latest clampdown came a day after police arrested nearly 1,000 protesters during a demonstration attended by tens of thousands of people. Reports said all but a handful of those protesters had been released by Sunday morning.

Denmark's center-right government has been criticized over the adoption of new rules just prior to the opening of the conference, increasing the amount of time that police can detain people without charge from 6 to 12 hours.

Ahead of Saturday's protest rally, authorities had rounded up dozens of anti-capitalist demonstrators in a bid to forestall possible violence.

Danish police beefed up security, with helicopters buzzing in the skies above the capital and armored police vans and dog squads patrolling the streets.

Amid fears the violent far-left groups could join the march, police also stepped up security measures at Denmark's land and sea borders to prevent troublemakers from entering the country.

Call for dramatic action

Danish policemen block a group of demonstrators during the protest on Saturday

Up to 100,000 people took part in the largely peaceful protest on Saturday

Meanwhile, at a vigil outside the city hall, Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu handed over a petition signed by half a million people to the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer, calling for dramatic action to roll back the threat posed by greenhouse gases.

"This is a problem. If we don't resolve it, no-one is going to survive," Tutu told a crowd of more than a thousand.

De Boer said: "There will be huge political fallout if we fail to reach an agreement this week."

Meanwhile, the informal meeting of environment ministers under the chairmanship of former Danish minister Connie Hedegaard, was tasked with turning a problem-ridden blueprint into a landmark deal on climate change that can be endorsed at the end of the conference on Friday by about 120 world leaders.

However, negotiators made negligible progress on any of the major issues in the first six days of the UN conference, stoking fears that the outcome would be a poor compromise.

But Hedegaard insisted that, compared with a couple of months ago, procedural advances in the first six days had been "fantastic." However, she admitted that the task ahead was "daunting."

Ambitious goals

Some of the thousands of demonstrators in Copenhagen on Saturday

Activists are demanding a strong and binding climate deal

The conference hopes to agree an outline deal of national pledges to curb carbon emissions and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars in help for poor countries tackle climate change.

More talks would be needed next year to agree on vital technical details, which are considered a political minefield.

Already, the draft blueprint under scrutiny has seen the conference split into several interest groups. The developing countries are demanding binding emissions curbs by rich nations and hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to tackle climate change, while emerging giant economies like China, India and Brazil are being urged to make ambitious emissions commitments of their own.

The United States, under the leadership of President Barack Obama and currently rolling back some of the climate policies of the Bush era, has stepped up pressure on emerging nations.

And the European Union, which says it has done the most on emissions pledges and short-term climate finance promises, also wants to see more commitment from big developing countries.

Editor: Chuck Penfold

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