US president offers no further commitment on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries
Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act "boldly and decisively" on climate change.
But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort — and a 10-day meeting — from ending in total collapse.
Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.
He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.
He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.
The president's speech followed the publication of draft text, obtained by the Guardian this morning, that reveals the enormous progress needed from world leaders in the final hours of the Copenhagen climate change summit to achieve a strong deal. The draft says countries "ought" to limit global warming to 2C, but crucially does not bind them to do so. The text, drafted by a select group of 28 leaders – including UK prime minister, Gordon Brown – in the early hours of this morning, also proposes extending negotiations for another year until the next scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Mexico City in December 2010.
In his address, Obama did say America would follow through on his administration's clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.
"We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.
But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.
Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative — no agreement — was far worse.
"We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.
"Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."
He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world's biggest emitter and reinforcing America's hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.
The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage – and his special following among African leaders – to try to come to an ambitious deal.
The president was drawn into the chaos within minutes of his arrival at Copenhagen, ditching his schedule to take part in a meeting of major industrialised and rapidly emerging economies.
Responding to Obama's speech, a British official said: "Gordon Brown is committed to doing all he can and will stay until the very last minute to secure a deal... but others also need to show the same level of commitment. The prospects of a deal are not great."
Many reactions were strongly critical of Obama. Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, described Obama's speech as "ridiculous" and the US's initial offer of a $10bn fund for poor countries in the draft text as "a joke".
Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: "The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster."
Friends of the Earth said in a statement, "Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world."
The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress: "The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority."
The extent of crisis in the talks has taken leaders by surprise. The Brazilian leader, Lula da Silva, told the conference that the all-night negotiating sessions took him back to his days as a trade union leader negotiating with his bosses.
Obama, Wen offer no new emissions cuts at summit
COPENHAGEN — President Barack Obama and other world leaders took stalled climate talks into their own hands Friday, holding an emergency meeting to come up with a political agreement to salvage a conference marked by deep divisions between rich and poor countries.
But neither Obama nor Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered any new commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions as they addressedthe U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. And Wen skipped the high-level meeting, sending an envoy instead.
With the talks in disarray Friday, many delegates had been looking toward China and the U.S. — the world's two largest carbon polluters — to deepen their pledges to cut emissions to salvage a deal in Copenhagen.
"We are ready to get this done today but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that is better for us to act rather than talk," Obama said, insisting on a transparent way to monitor each nation's pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Wen told delegates that China's voluntary targets of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent will require "tremendous efforts."
"We will honor our word with real action," Wen said.
China has been criticized at the two-week summit for not offering stronger carbon emissions targets and for resisting international monitoring of its actions. After the impromptu high-level meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said progress in the climate talks was being held back by China.
An early draft of the climate agreement, obtained by The Associated Press, called for rich countries to mobilize $30 billion over the next three years to help poor countries cope with the effects of global warming, scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020.
But it called for continued negotiations on targets for emission cuts, with a deadline of a climate conference in Mexico City in December next year.
The lack of progress meant Obama changed the word "agreement" from his prepared speech to negotiators to "framework I just outlined."
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told climate negotiators that "the finishing line is in sight," reminding them that "the world is watching."
And Brazilian president Luiz Lula da Silva told the joint session of negotiators how frustrated he was that the job was left to heads of state after talks ran into the wee hours Friday.
"I am not sure if such an angel or wise man will come down to this plenary and put in our minds the intelligence that we lacked," Lula said. "I believe in God. I believe in miracles."
To move the talks forward, Lula said Brazil, a developing country, would give money to help other developing countries cope with the costs of global warming.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. president met with world leaders Friday from wealthy nations like Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and developing countries like Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Colombia.
China and Russia, both seen as key participants in climate change discussions, also were at the meeting with Obama.
Delegates earlier were blaming both the U.S. and China for the lack of a political agreement that more than 110 world leaders were supposed to sign within hours.
The conference has been plagued by growing distrust between rich and poor nations. Both sides blamed the other for failing to take ambitions actions to tackle climate change. At one point, African delegates staged a partial boycott of the talks.
World leaders handed off a three-page draft text about 3 a.m. time to their ministers and they continued to work on it through the night. But by 5 a.m., negotiators from Mexico and the G-77 plus China said they were nowhere near agreement on the final document.
"It is now up to world leaders to decide," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren.
Carlgren, negotiating on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, blamed the morning's impasse on the Chinese for "blocking again and again," and on the U.S. for coming too late with an improved offer, a long-range climate aid program announced Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State HillaryRodham Clinton.
A leading African delegate, meanwhile, complained bitterly about the proposed declaration.
"It's weak. There's nothing ambitious in this text," Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, a leader of the developing nations bloc, said Friday.
Any agreement was expected, at best, to envision emissions-cutting targets for rich nations and billions in climate aid for poor countries, but fall well short of the goal of a legally binding pact. If the political deal is done, it would still be seen by many as a setback, following two years of intense negotiations to agree on new emissions reductions and financial support for poorer nations.
China and the U.S had sought to give the negotiations a boost on Thursday with an announcement and a concession.
Clinton said Washington would press the world to come up with a climate aid fund amounting to $100 billion a year by 2020, a move that was quickly followed by an offer from China to open its reporting on actions to reduce carbon emissions to international review.
That issue — money to help poor nations cope with climate change and shift to clean energy — seemed to be where negotiators at the 193-nation conference could claim most success.
Pollution cuts and the best way to monitor those actions remained unresolved. And negotiators also didn't come to an agreement on an important procedural issue — just what legal form a future deal would take.
Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official, said early Friday that a political declaration needed to include a deadline for agreeing on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, whose modest emission cuts for 37 industrialized nations expire in 2012. The U.S. rejects Kyoto and would be covered by a separate eventual agreement.
"You can reach an agreement here that sets out major political contours, a long-term goal, targets for industrialized countries, engagement by major developing countries, financing," he told The Associated Press. "But people will want to see a clear deadline that turns that into a legally binding instrument."
Delegates filtering out of the predawn discussions Friday sounded disappointed.
"It's a political statement, but it isn't a lot," said Chinese delegate Li Junhua.
"It would be a major disappointment. A political declaration would not guarantee our survival," said Selwin Hart, a delegate from Barbados speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, many of which are threatened by seas rising form global warming.
Clinton's announcement on funding was widely praised. Yoshiko Kijima, a senior Japanese negotiator, said it sent a strong signal by Obama "that he will persuade his own people that we need to show something to developing countries. I really respect that."
But none of the leaders at the summit offered to increase their emissions targets, which the United Nations has concluded would fall far short of what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Sudan's Lumumba said the agreement that was being worked on included a goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels, a ceiling a half-degree warmer than developing nations demand.
Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have already increased global temperatures by 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) since the Industrial Age.
A U.N.-sponsored scientific panel says any further rise to above 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) more than preindustrial temperatures could lead to a catastrophic sea-level rise threatening islands and coastal cities, the die-off of many animal and plant species, and damaging storms and drought.
An internal U.N. calculation, obtained by The Associated Press, said pledges made so farby both industrial and developing countries would mean a 3-degree Celsius (4.8-degree Fahrenheit) temperature rise over preindustrial levels.
Reactions to Obama's speech on climate
COPENHAGEN, Dec 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama urged a climate deal in Copenhagen on Friday, but offered no new targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the world's second biggest carbon emitter.
Some 193 countries and more than 120 world leaders met in the Danish capital on the final day of Dec. 7-18 talks to try and agree a global climate deal. Following are responses to Obama's speech.
Alden Meyer, Director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists
"I think the speech may have been calibrated not to put some things on the table at this point, because of the hard-ball negotiations going on, the state of play he was flying into. I know they were considering some additional elements which weren't forthcoming."
"We're hopeful that the (subsequent China-U.S.) bilateral may have cleared some of the air and laid the groundwork for agreement on some of the issues. If China and the United States see more eye to eye on some of the flashpoint issues that has to be helpful."
David Waskow, spokesperson for Oxfam International
"Obama's speech showed that a deal still hangs in the balance. Recognizing the impacts for those on the front lines of climate change has put President Obama on the front lines of the negotiations. What's on the table still has large gaps and unanswered questions. The United States must get more specific to make a real deal possible."
Greenpeace US executive director Phil Radford
"The world was waiting for the spirit of yes we can, but all we got was my way or the highway."
"He crossed an ocean to tell the world he has nothing new to offer, then he said take it or leave it. By offering no movement on US global warming pollution cuts he showed his disregard for the science and the victims of climate change in the United States and abroad. He now risks being branded as the man who killed Copenhagen."
"He said all parties must move, but he offered no movement. He said the decades long split between the rich world and poor needs to end, but his vision of a deal here would give us a 3C temperature rise and devastate Africa and the small island states."
Tearfund's Director of Advocacy Paul Cook
"He completely contradicted himself - the U.S. actions in terms of figures for action on mitigation and finance, even after yesterday's ($100 billion climate aid) announcement, just don't stack up or equal survival for poor people and the planet. There were no new pledges on targets and a complete failure to acknowledge the fact that the richest and most powerful nations must take responsibility for the climate crisis that they have caused."
WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts
"He has put an emissions target on the table and pledged his commitment to long-term climate financing - both critical pieces of a final deal. But that's not enough to knit together the world community at this pivotal hour. The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority."
Tom Sharman, ActionAid climate justice coordinator
"Obama has said nothing to save the Copenhagen conference from failure. The US is the one major player yet to move. Developing countries have come here to negotiate in good faith, but feel they have been cheated and it looks like they will leave empty handed."
Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica
"President Obama's rhetoric is empty. The U.S. has failed to significantly improve upon the weak position it brought to these talks. This speech appears to be more of a face-saving exercise for President Obama than an attempt to unite countries around a truly planet-saving agreement. "The United States came to these negotiations with a weak position, and it now appears to be attempting to take the rest of the world down to our level. It simply must do better."
I hope somebody comes up with a more complete post about COP15 and the deals per se today. I just thought people here would be interested now that Obama is there.
PS/ETA: I thought the cut might fail, I'm really, really sorry you guys. Why is LJ such a pain with rich text lately?