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Grim forecast for climate talks

As negotiations to save the planet from overheating dissolved in intense bickering on Wednesday between the rich and poor, the European Union made a last-gasp 100 billion euro payout to the poorest, mainly African, nations. The announcement is unlikely to please India and China. Chetan Chauhan and Samar Halarnkar report. Full coverage | See pics | audioListen to podcast

world Updated: Dec 17, 2009 01:42 IST

As negotiations to save the planet from overheating dissolved in intense bickering on Wednesday between the rich and poor, the European Union made a last-gasp 100 billion euro payout to the poorest, mainly African, nations.

The announcement is unlikely to please India and China, which earlier in the day led a protest against a Danish move to leave the final text to be adopted on December 18 to 103 heads of state.

<b1>The grim mood inside the conference centre was reflected in the streets outside on a grey, wet and freezing day. Danish police launched the biggest security operation in their history as thousands protested the impending failure of the climate summit.

"There is no transparency in the entire procedure,” said India’s Environment Secretary Vijai Sharma, in one of his three interventions at a plenary on Wednesday. He was joined by third-world envoys from China, Bolivia and the G-77 bloc of 133 developing countries.

They were all protesting a three-page Danish document that wanted negotiators to skip discussion and leave a final decision to heads of state over Thursday and Friday.

"All issues will be discussed at a meeting of parties," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen finally pleaded. “Please allow the process to move forward.”

Sharma alleged an attempt to bring in a final text without discussing the drafts of two working groups on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) to fight climate change (by 2050) and on the Kyoto Protocol, a so-called two-track approach has itself been criticised for being vague.

Instead of signing on the bottom line of a watered-down political agreement, the heads of state are in danger of having nothing to sign, despite an all-night, last-ditch 10-hour meeting of negotiators.

“If we do not come to an agreement within the next 48 hours, I am afraid we may be doomed,” President of Maldives Mohamad Nasheed said later, as other heads of island nations too spoke of impending doomsday.

Till late Wednesday evening, drafts on the LCA - a document that hopes to bring the US on board by agreeing to an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, which the poorer countries say is non-negotiable - kept tumbling out, as envoys made frantic last-minute attempts to salvage something for their leaders.

Earlier, China said a Danish government move to bypass the two-track approach and leave it to the leaders was “illegitimate” and had stalled negotiations. The G-77 and Latin American nations led by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela backed India and China.

Diplomats, who have seen the Danish draft - it was shown to 40 countries - said it was similar to an earlier Danish proposal shown to G-8 (rich countries) last week.

Wednesday’s Danish draft included a peaking year for emissions for all countries and urged emission-reduction targets for emerging economies. The new draft dropped the reference to a peak year for global emissions without specifying a year unlike last week’s draft.

In what will only further allegations of backroom dealings, the draft was apparently shown to the BASIC countries (India, China, Brazil and South Africa) and G-77 nations. “I haven’t seen the draft,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

The Danish move appeared to be an attempt to include non-controversial portions in the LCA and Kyoto Protocol drafts, leaving out contentious portions.

On the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the Danes apparently told BASIC envoys that the Kyoto Protocol should not be retained beyond 2012.

At a 10-hour meeting that ended on Wednesday morning, there was also no consensus on emission targets for rich countries and a base year from which to calculate these targets. The US and Australia want 2005 as base year; the rest want 1990.

Later in the day, at a high-level plenary, Ramesh presented India’s actions on climate-change mitigation and adaptation. He said India’s forests and carbon-credit projects would neutralise 20 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse-gas emissions. India is the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter.