Obama sees climate deal as summit deadline nears

COPENHAGEN Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:59pm EST

1 of 37. Activists from Avaaz.org dressed as trees hold an event in the main hall of the Bella Center during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has expressed confidence a climate deal can be clinched as dozens of world leaders gather on Wednesday to try to break a deadlock at U.N. climate talks.

"The president believes that we can get an operational agreement that makes sense in Copenhagen," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing in Washington on Tuesday, three days before a deadline on a new U.N. deal to combat climate change.

Leaders including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were set to give speeches at the December 7-18 climate meeting, until now dominated by environment ministers.

The world leaders have until a main summit on Friday to agree a deal under a deadline set at a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007. Negotiations since Bali have been marred by mistrust between rich and poor nations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in an International Herald Tribune opinion piece on Tuesday that success in Copenhagen demanded that all major economies take decisive action and agree to a system that is transparent and trusted.

"The president believes that to get an agreement that is truly operational, that we have to have that -- that transparency. That's one of the things that he'll work on as we go forward," Gibbs said.

As the deadline approaches for a pact that would favor a shift to low-carbon businesses, some politicians are warning of the risks of failure in the 193-nation negotiations, even as they urge compromises to allow a breakthrough.

"It's possible that we will not reach agreement and it's also true that there are many issues to be sorted out," Brown said in Copenhagen on Tuesday night.

"In these very hours we are balancing between success and failure," said Danish President of the two-week meeting, Connie Hedegaard, at the opening of a high-level phase of the talks on Tuesday night.

A formal summit of more than 120 world leaders on Thursday and Friday is due to agree a global deal to slow rising temperatures set to cause heat waves, floods, desertification and rising ocean levels.

Environment ministers have been meeting since the weekend, trying to ease splits between rich and poor nations about sharing out the burden of curbs in emissions of greenhouse gases and raising billions of dollars in new funds to help the poor.


"The absolute core benchmark for success is for the first time in history to have an agreement between rich and poor countries on this common challenge," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in Copenhagen.

The United Nations wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions more deeply than planned by 2020, wants developing countries to do more to slow their rising emissions and wants billions of dollars in aid to help the poor.

China, the United States, Russia and India are the top emitters and have all set goals for curbing emissions in recent months. But rich and poor nations are demanding more than the other side is willing to give.

A major hurdle is that the United States has not yet passed legislation capping its emissions -- unlike all its main industrial allies.

Friends of the Earth said that South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to all African leaders urging them to insist on a deal to limit global warming to a temperature rise of 1.5 Celsius over pre-industrial times.

Many nations favor an easier 2.0 Celsius limit.

"A global goal of about 2 Celsius is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development," according to a copy of the letter. Tutu said that it would be better "to have no deal than to have a bad deal."

But Brown said the costs of failure to rein in greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, could be huge.

Inaction would cause "a reduction in our national income of up to 20 percent, an economic catastrophe equivalent in this century to the impact of two world wars and the Great Depression in the last," he said in a statement on arrival in Copenhagen.

Major U.S. businesses including Duke Energy, Microsoft and Dow Chemical called for tough U.S. emissions cuts which would mobilize a shift to a greener economy.

(With extra reporting by Peter Griffiths, writing by Alister Doyle, editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (7)
Chevelle wrote:
My husband and I and our huge circle of friends/spheres of influence do not believe that global warming exists due to our emissions. This Global Warming is a hoax, a deception to dupe the undiscerning into a One World Government. WAKE UP AMERICA – YOU WILL LOSE YOUR SOVEREIGNTY AND PAY MORE TAXES! The earth has had warming and cooling phases way before man had inventions. Don’t believe the lie.

Dec 15, 2009 11:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
MadMtnScot wrote:
This is an attempt at the fleecing of “rich nations” in an act of “social justice” in an era of “hope and change” to “redistribute wealth”. There, have I hit all the high points? Sorry, but my country is having some problems right now, maybe you could come back in a few years when we are financially stable again. Thanks, but no thanks. The US can’t afford to play games like this right now (or ever as far as I am concerned as this climate change thing is just a scam anyway.)

Dec 15, 2009 11:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
Gotthardbahn wrote:
Climate change/global warming is just ’scientific socalism’ in a new guise, tarted up to appeal to today’s youth. Thirty years ago the kids were protesting nuclear power, twenty-five years ago it was ‘refuse the cruise’, ten years ago it was the anti-globalization thing, now it’s global warming/climate change. The issues change but kids are out there protesting. This aging Boomer has had quite enough, thank you very much. Better these kids learn a trade, get a job and get lost!

Dec 15, 2009 3:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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