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Climate summit stalled by most vulnerable countries

Island nation Tuvalu led a group of developing countries in a walkout from the Dec 7-18 climate summit in Copenhagen on Wednesday, forcing an unprecedented closure of the conference for a few hours.

world Updated: Dec 09, 2009 20:23 IST

Island nation Tuvalu led a group of developing countries in a walkout from the Dec 7-18 climate summit in Copenhagen on Wednesday, forcing an unprecedented closure of the conference for a few hours.

Tuvalu and other small island nations - most vulnerable to rising seas as a result of climate change - wanted a far stronger treaty out of Copenhagen than is currently being considered. When, at the start of the morning's plenary session, the chair did not take up the Tuvalu proposal in this regard, the Pacific nation's representative led some other developing countries in a walkout, forcing a halt to the session.

After protracted backroom negotiations, it was decided that the conference would be resumed in the afternoon.

"This suspension is over one of the most important questions of Copenhagen: Will the outcome be legally binding," asked Martin Kaiser, international climate policy director of the NGO Greenpeace.

"For the world's most vulnerable countries, like Tuvalu, this is about survival. It's about whether the rest of the world is serious about stopping climate change. Only a legally binding agreement can give these countries the confidence that their future is guaranteed," he added.

The walkout was the most dramatic demonstration of developing countries' frustration that rich nations are unwilling to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) - which are leading to climate change - by a significant degree, or provide a meaningful sum of money to poor countries to cope with the effects of global warming.

The differences continue to stall a global treaty to combat climate change.

Representatives of almost all the 192 countries gathered here now agree there will be no legally binding treaty at the end of the conference, at best there will be a "political declaration" of intent.

The fundamental difference over whether the Kyoto Protocol - the current treaty under which rich countries have to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are causing climate change - should continue or be scrapped remained, according to Shyam Saran, leader of the Indian government delegation.

Advanced countries want to scrap the protocol and have a new one to bring the US - which has not ratified it - into the process of combating climate change. But developing countries are keen to have it continue, and are asking the rich countries to what extent they have complied with the protocol and what they are willing to commit under it.

"But the developed countries are making their commitments elsewhere, not under the protocol," Saran said, which is why negotiations for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol - supposed to be between 2013 and 2020 - have stalled.

Negotiations under the 2007 Bali Action Plan on how countries can cooperate in the long-term to combat climate change have stalled over the same issues too, Saran told the Indian media.

"There is broad convergence in some areas, but crucial differences are emerging whenever we are getting into the details of advanced country mitigation responsibilities, differentiation between developed and developing countries, the priority to be given to adaptation steps and the mechanism under which money for adaptation should be administered, overall mobilisation and deployment of financing and technology transfer."

Raman Mehta of the NGO ActionAid India pointed out that there is nothing on the table right now on long-term financing for developing countries. There is a commitment to provide $10 billion a year for the next three years, whereas even the most conservative estimate - made by the World Bank - puts the requirements at $75 billion a year.

Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said: "Current advanced country commitments on either mitigation or finance don't give us even a 50-50 chance of keeping global warming down to two degrees Celsius."