Climate talks walk a thin line of success or bust

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The success of the U.N. climate conference hung in the balance Tuesday as China and the U.S. deadlocked over whether Beijing will allow the world to check its books and verify promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The success of the U.N. climate conference hung in the balance Tuesday as China and the U.S. deadlocked over whether Beijing will allow the world to check its books and verify promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Princes, presidents and premiers crowded into a vast hall for the formal opening of the largest summit ever held on climate change, but attention was on the leaders of the world’s two largest polluters — President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao — who plan to arrive for the final days of talks on a framework to control heat-trapping gases.

Negotiators who have been working for 10 days floated new draft documents on lesser issues. But they left open the vexing questions of emissions targets for industrial countries, billions of dollars a year in funding for poor countries to contend with global warming, and verifying the actions of emerging powers like China to ensure they keep their promises.

“In these very hours, we are balancing between success and failure,” said conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark. Success is possible, she said, “but I must also warn you: We can fail — probably without anyone really wanting it so, but because we spent too much time on posturing, on repeating positions, on formalities.”

The rest of the 115 leaders were expected to arrive before Friday’s summit finale to sign a political outline of a global warming treaty that would set limits on carbon dioxide pollution by the United States, China, India as well as extending emissions targets for the 37 countries regulated under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

“There is no understatement that with your signatures you will write our future,” Britain’s Prince Charles told the conference.

As the conference headed into the final stretch, delegates were disheartened that so many large and small issues remained unresolved, with prospects for a meaningful agreement receding.

Prodipto Ghosh, a member of the Indian delegation, said the negotiations were “not going good” and that fundamental differences between rich and poor nations would be “difficult to bridge” by the end of the week.

Experienced negotiators recall many previous conferences where the deal was done in the final overnight session, against all odds.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was coming Thursday to hold a round of private consultations in preparation for Obama’s arrival a day later, said an official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because the trip has not been formally announced.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was positive about a deal but also expressed frustration with the progress to date.

“I’m afraid that negotiations have been too slow,” Ban said. “I think all the countries can and must do more.”

Delegates were nearing a deal to protect tropical forests, although several substantive issues remained unresolved, including targets for reducing deforestation and money to pay for conservation plans and how that money would be raised, according to the latest draft of a text seen by The Associated Press.

The program called REDD, for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, would be financed either by richer nations’ taxpayers or by a carbon-trading mechanism — a system in which each country would have an emissions ceiling, and those who undershoot it can sell their remainder to over-polluters.

Political and entertainment celebrities crowded onto the Copenhagen stage, followed by a trail of cameras: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice-President Al Gore and actor-activist Darryl Hannah. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe came, exempted from a European travel ban because he was attending an international conference. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived, saying he could act as a broker in the talks.

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official who presides over the two-week affair, gave his daily news conference with an orange-and-white life preserver leaning against his podium and joked that he hoped the world wouldn’t need it.

The top U.S. and Chinese diplomats at the talks, Todd Stern and Xie Zhenhua, held yet another in a series of private meetings, but neither side indicated any break in the stalemate on the verification issue.

An Asian diplomat who speaks often with both sides said China and the U.S. have made verification a red-line issue and said he feared it could cause a deal to collapse. Neither said has made any serious concessions, the diplomat told the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of compromising his negotiating ability.

China promised last month to slow its carbon emissions, but stressed the move would be voluntary without international assistance or financing — reflecting its reluctance to commit to internationally verifiable standards.

Washington welcomed Beijing’s pledge to nearly halve the ratio of pollution to economic output in the next decade but said China should put that target in an international agreement and open it to fact-checking.

“There ought to be some measure of international consultation or review or dialogue,” Stern said. Other countries want to “understand the assumptions behind the numbers.”

Yu Qungtain, Xie’s deputy at the talks, rebuffed any verification demand that goes beyond previous agreements. “We cannot agree,” he said.

The Asian diplomat said China is concerned that verification could lead to penalties for failing to meet its commitments. But he also said the United States was pushing for binding commitments from developing countries that they cannot accept.

“The U.S. is trying all sorts of verbal formulations,” said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defence Council.

China already subjects some data for review under other agreements: it allows the World Bank to check its economic figures and the International Energy Agency to go over its energy output, said Doniger, a former climate negotiator. A new climate agreement might lead to even more intrusive inspections, however.

Doniger saw a possible solution to the dispute in a trade-off in which China would agree to have its figures reviewed in exchange for a firm U.S. offer on financing for developing countries to help them deal with rising seas, drought and other results of global warming. The U.S. has said it cannot put a figure on the table until Congress legislates a climate and energy package, expected in the first half of 2010.

China is grouped with developing nations at the talks, but the U.S. doesn’t consider China to be in need of climate-change aid.

The U.S. also has a weapon it has not yet used in the negotiations: the threat to tax Chinese-made goods deemed to be cheaper because they are made with higher carbon emissions than similar U.S. goods — known as “border adjustments.”

Yu said the tactic amounted to trade protectionism using climate change as an excuse, and was unacceptable. On protectionist issues, he said, “no one will benefit. We will all lose.”


Associated Press reporters Dina Cappiello in Washington and Cara Anna in Beijing contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some workers at Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House have recently tested positive for COVID-19. (File photo)
Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House reports COVID-19 workers

10 positive tests since last Thursday

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

63 per cent said equality between men and women has not been achieved

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, anti-coup protesters run as one of them discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is adding to pressure for more sanctions against the junta, as countries struggle over how to best confront military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo/File)
Escalating violence raises pressure for Myanmar sanctions

More shootings were reported over the weekend

A moth-killing drone hovers over crops in a green house in Monster, Netherlands, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. A Dutch startup is using drones to kill moths in midair as a way of protecting valuable crops in greenhouses that are damaged by caterpillars. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions emerged from the work of a group of students looking for ways to kill mosquitos in their dorm rooms. The drones themselves are very basic, but they are steered by smart technology and special cameras that scan the airspace in greenhouses. When the cameras detect a moth, a drone is set on a collision course with the bug, destroying the bug with its rotors. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
Drones vs hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Drones instantly kill the moths by flying into them

Health-care worker Jenne Saunders prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province on March 1, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada set to receive more than 910,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week

Federal government looks for vaccine-makers to finalize delivery of eight million doses by March 31

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Seasons changing: Hope around the corner with vaccines

The month of March is leaving its muddy footprint on the land… Continue reading

Hamilton Forge FC’s Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia’s Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Forge FC owner Bob Young says the Canadian Premier League champions will be playing the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC at a disadvantage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC owner upset at Canada Soccer’s timing of Canadian Championship final

Winner of Canadian Championship final earns a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League

Team Wild Card Two skip Kevin Koe reacts to his shot as he plays Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., on March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wild Card Two’s Koe beats Gushue 9-7 to hand defending champs first loss at the Brier

Gushue was a tad heavy with his final draw and Koe picked it out for the victory

No regrets: Grammy-nominated DJ Jayda G on choosing beats over sciences career

TORONTO — House music producer Jayda G knows a thing or two… Continue reading

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaking about expecting their second child during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” airs March 7 as a two-hour exclusive primetime special on the CBS Television Network. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
UK royals absorb shock of revealing Harry, Meghan interview

Anti-monarchy group Republic said the interview gave a clearer picture of what the royal family is like

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

Most Read