15 Dec 2009:
De Boer Calls for Action
as Climate Talks Bog Down Over Key Issues
As the Copenhagen summit entered its final four days with wide differences still separating major blocs of countries, the UN’s chief climate negotiator, Yvo de Boer, called on participants to begin making more concessions and step up the pace of the talks
. Saying the conference has entered “a very distinct and important moment in the process,” de Boer warned, “We have, over the last week or so, seen progress in a number of areas, but we haven’t seen enough of it. There is still an enormous amount of ground to be covered if this conference is to deliver what people around the world expect it to deliver.”
As some of the 110 world leaders expected for the last few days of the conference began arriving in Copenhagen, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also called on rich and poor nations to make much more aggressive efforts to narrow differences
that increasingly centered on three areas: the size of CO2
emissions cuts countries are willing to make, methods of verifying that the cuts are actually made, and the amount of money that industrialized nations are willing to contribute to a fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change and adopt renewable energy technologies. “This is a time where [negotiators] should exercise leadership,” Ban told the Associated Press
. “And this is a time to stop pointing fingers, to start looking in the mirror and offering what they can do more, both the developed and developing countries.”
The world’s two largest carbon dioxide emitters, China and the United States, are increasingly at odds over verifying China’s emissions reductions
. China has said it will not accept any monitoring of its greenhouse gas emissions, insisting that the country’s laws provide for strict oversight. But the U.S. is warning that without stringent verification, no deal will be possible, as the U.S. Congress is unlikely to approve a treaty that does not provide some independent verification of China’s CO2 output. China has
agreed to reduce its so-called carbon intensity — the amount of CO2 produced per unit of gross domestic product — but its overall emissions are expected to continue to grow significantly for several more decades. U.S. negotiators are wielding a powerful weapon over the Chinese to set more stringent emissions goals and to consent to verification: the threat of trade tariffs in imported Chinese goods. But He Yafei, China’s vice foreign minister, said that monitoring its own emissions without external interference was “a matter of principle” and was not negotiable. However, Barbara Finamore, director of the China Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the Chinese stance was a negotiating ploy to drive the best bargain possible. “They’re going to wait to the last hour of the last day and just as the other side is walking out they’ll say, ‘Hey, come back’ — just as they do every day in every market in China,” said Finamore. “That’s why they’re the best negotiators in the world.”
The Los Angeles Times
reported that President Obama, due to arrive on the final day of the talks Friday, was telephoning world leaders in an effort to find common ground
for some kind of agreement in Copenhagen. “The president’s been very engaged on this issue,” said Todd Stern, Obama’s special climate envoy.
Joining the call for aggressive action to slow global warming was Pope Benedict, who delivered an address on the World Day of Peace calling on industrialized nations to take the lead in slashing greenhouse gas emissions and in reining in wasteful lifestyles
. “It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries,” the Pope said. “This means that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency.”
On the streets of Copenhagen, Danish police arrested another 200 people Monday night and early Tuesday
as protesters — angered by the lack of progress at the talks — set fire to barricades in the city’s Christiania neighborhood. Roughly 1,000 demonstrators were arrested over the weekend as they broke windows with bricks and confronted police.
reported that a draft text of a provision to slow deforestation in the topics has met stiff opposition from conservation groups, which claim that the proposed text would do little to slow forest loss
. The text involves so-called REDD programs (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation), which would pay countries such as Brazil and Indonesia not to clear their forests for logging, agriculture, and development. But forest campaigners said the draft text has removed all targets for reducing deforestation; an earlier version of the text aimed to cut tropical deforestation by 50 percent by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030. The campaigners said the most recent text also weakened provisions guaranteeing rights for indigenous people, establishing sound methods of monitoring deforestation, and strictly regulating the conversion of natural forests to timber plantations.
Former U.S. Vice President Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore made his first appearance at the conference Monday as he joined scientists presenting new evidence of rapid warming in the Arctic and Antarctic
. Gore said new computer modeling suggests that summer sea ice could disappear in much of the Arctic Ocean by 2014. Speaking before a standing-room-only crowd at the Bella Center conference site, Gore was joined by Danish ice scientist Dorthe Dahl Jensen, who said that in recent years the massive Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland has doubled its rate of dumping ice into the sea. Jensen said that the melting of polar ice sheets, the retreat of glaciers outside the poles, and thermal expansion of the ocean have contributed to a significant rise in global sea level in the past decade — from .07 of an inch per year to .13 inch.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — known for his environmentally progressive policies, if not his green lifestyle (Bloomberg flew to Copenhagen on a private jet) — toured the world’s largest offshore wind power complex off the Danish coast
The complex, known as Horns Rev 2, has 91 turbines producing 209 megawatts of electricity. Bloomberg is pushing for New York City to help develop a major wind power complex off neighboring Long Island, which, if built, would become the world’s largest offshore wind power site. Costing an estimated $3 billion, the proposed wind power array would generate 700 megawatts of electricity. After flying in a helicopter to the Danish site, Bloomberg addressed one of the major concerns about offshore wind power — that the turbines spoil the view. Dismissing such concerns, Bloomberg said, “Would they rather be staring at a coal plant?” Standing on an offshore platform among the Danish turbines, Bloomberg added, “It’s very impressive. It gives you a feeling for what it will be, I hope, off the Long Island shore.”