COPENHAGEN China led calls by developing nations for deeper emissions cuts from the United States, Japan and Europe at U.N. climate talks on Tuesday, as a study showed that this decade will be the warmest on record.
The first decade of this century was the hottest since records began, the World Meteorological Organization said, underscoring the threat scientists say the planet faces from rising temperatures.
Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are trying to seal the outlines of a climate pact to combat rising seas, desertification, floods and cyclones that could devastate economies and ruin the livelihoods of millions of people.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the Dec 7-18 talks in Copenhagen were "off to a good start." The EU said it was positive that no one had walked out of negotiation sessions.
But a rich-poor rift continued to cloud negotiations on finance and emissions cuts. Recession-hit rich countries have not yet made concrete offers to aid developing nations who also want the industrialized world to act faster to curb emissions.
China and many other developing nations urged the rich to make deeper cuts in emissions and Beijing scoffed at a fast-start fund of $10 billion a year meant to help developing countries from 2010 that rich countries are expected to approve.
China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, criticized goals set by the United States, the European Union and Japan for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Su Wei, a senior Chinese climate official at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, said the targets broadly fell short of the emissions cuts recommended by a U.N. panel of scientists. The panel has said cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 were needed to avoid the worst of global warming.
He said a U.S. offer, equal to 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, "cannot be regarded as remarkable or notable." An EU cut of 20 percent was also not enough and Japan was setting impossible conditions on its offer of a 25 percent cut by 2020.
"LIFE AND DEATH"
"This $10 billion if divided by the world population, it is less than $2 per person," he said, adding it was not even enough to buy a cup of coffee in Copenhagen or a coffin in poorer parts of the world.
"Climate change is a matter of life and death," he said.
Brazil's climate change ambassador said his country did not want to sign up for a long-term goal of halving global emissions by 2050 unless rich nations took on firm shorter-term targets -- which the Danish hosts view as a core outcome for the talks.
Copenhagen was meant to seal a legally binding climate deal to broaden the fight against climate change by expanding or replacing the Kyoto Protocol from 2013.
While that now looks out of reach, host Denmark wants leaders to at least agree on a "politically binding" deal. The Danish government has said this would be 5 to 8 pages with annexes from all countries describing pledged actions.
Negotiators are also trying to whittle down almost 200 pages of draft text that is expected to form the basis of an eventual post-2012 climate treaty. While negotiators have made progress refining the text, it is still full of blanks and options.
African civil groups led a protest inside the main conference center in Copenhagen, urging more aid to prepare for global warming. "Africans are suffering. We will not die in silence," said Augustine Njamnshi of Christian Aid.
"PLEASING THE RICH"
A draft 9-page Danish text with annexes seen by Reuters last week drew criticism by environmental activists, who said it undermined the negotiations.
"Focus on the Danish text right now is a distraction from the negotiations," said Kim Carstensen, head of conservation group WWF's global climate initiative, adding the text did not lay out what would happen to the Kyoto Protocol.
He called the Danish text a weak attempt to accommodate the United States. De Boer described the text as an informal paper for the purposes of consultation and not an official part of the negotiations.
Much is riding on what U.S. President Barack Obama can bring to the table in Copenhagen when he joins more than 100 other world leaders during a high-level summit on Dec 17-18.
Washington's provisional offer is to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, or 3 percent below the U.N.'s 1990 baseline.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled on Monday that greenhouse gases endanger human health, allowing it to regulate them without legislation from the Senate, where a bill to cut U.S. emissions by 2020 is stalled.
Delegates cautiously welcomed the step as a boost for Obama.