Progress made during Commonwealth summit, says French president

PORT-OF-SPAIN — A new global-warming agreement may yet emerge from the Copenhagen climate talks.

PORT-OF-SPAIN — A new global-warming agreement may yet emerge from the Copenhagen climate talks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol may still be attainable at a key United Nations summit next month.

“I believe that over the last three days things have really started to shift,” Sarkozy said. “We have entered into a very active negotiation phase.”

The French president made the remarks Friday at the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago. Sarkozy and other non-Commonwealth leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, made a special trip to the Caribbean nation in a bid to salvage sputtering negotiations.

A senior Canadian official had told reporters accompanying Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Port of Spain that the Commonwealth talks weren’t meant to preempt the Copenhagen summit.

But Rasmussen urged Commonwealth nations at a special meeting to forge ahead with a binding deal in the Danish capital.

“I know that for many of you climate change represents an immediate existential threat,” he said.

“You cannot afford the luxury of a failure in Copenhagen. This makes the challenge we are facing in Copenhagen very real.”

Ban likewise asked countries to make an extra push in the nine remaining days before the UN talks.

“My message to you today is simple: stay focused, stay committed, come to Copenhagen and seal a deal,” Ban said in a keynote address to Commonwealth heads of government, posted on a UN website.

“A deal that is ambitious, a deal that is equitable, a deal that satisfies the demands of science.”

Rich and developing countries have been at a standstill over several make-or-break issues heading into the talks.

The general feeling has been that the best-case outcome for Copenhagen is a blueprint that sets out a timeline and rough sketch of an eventual deal to replace Kyoto when that accord expires in 2012.

But the Commonwealth summit may yet break the deadlock between developed and developing nations.

Much of the focus of the Caribbean summit has been on climate change — not entirely surprising given most of the group’s members are smaller nations that suffer the ill effects of rising temperatures most acutely.

It was a point Sarkozy underscored during a news conference.

“We have to say that, as the international panel on global climate change has said, if we continue along down this road, we are heading for disaster with sea levels rising and global warming,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harper kicked off the summit by meeting the Queen.

The Queen opened the summit by saying the organization her father founded sixty years ago has an opportunity to regain its relevance by leading the battle against global warming.

She urged the 53-member body of mostly former British colonies to take a united stand on climate change ahead of Copenhagen.

“And on this, the eve of the UN Copenhagen summit on climate change, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to lead once more,” she said.

“The threat to our environment is not a new concern. But it is now a global challenge which will continue to affect the security and stability of millions for years to come.

“Many of those affected are among the most vulnerable. And many of the people least well able to withstand the adverse effects of climate change live in the Commonwealth.”