Image: Several hundred demonstrators warm up before a march in Copenhagen, on Monday.
Christian Charisius  /  Reuters
Demonstrators warm up before a march in Copenhagen on Monday.
updated 12/14/2009 7:38:07 PM ET 2009-12-15T00:38:07

The atmosphere at the U.N. climate conference grew more tense and divisive after talks were suspended for most of Monday’s session — a sign of the developing nations’ deep distrust of the promises by industrial countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

With only days left before the conference closes Friday, at least one world leader said he would come early to try to salvage the negotiations, and others reportedly were considering the move.

The wrangle over emission reductions froze a timetable for government ministers to negotiate a host of complex issues. Though procedural in nature, the Africa-led suspension went to the core of suspicions by poor countries that wealthier ones were trying to soften their commitments and evade penalties for missing their targets.

Talks were halted most of the day, resuming only after conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark assured developing countries she was not trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 document that requires industrial nations to cut emissions and imposes penalties if they fail to do so. Kyoto makes no demands on developing countries.

Among the issues put on hold: whether China will be asked to make sacrifices similar to those demanded of the United States and other rich nations; whether it will open its carbon books to outside inspection; how to ensure every country counts its carbon emissions the same way; and how to raise a steady flow of money for poor countries to combat climate-linked economic disruptions such as rising seas, drought and floods.

The delay came just days before President Barack Obama, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and more than 110 other world leaders were scheduled to arrive to cap two years of negotiations on an agreement to succeed Kyoto.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said he would go to Copenhagen on Tuesday — two days earlier than planned — to try to inject momentum into the talks. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and several others reportedly were considering early arrivals.

Former Vice President Al Gore told the conference that new data suggests a 75 percent chance the entire Arctic polar ice cap may disappear in the summertime as soon as five to seven years from now. Gore, who won a Nobel Peace prize for his work on climate change, joined the foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark in presenting two new reports on melting Arctic ice.

The world leaders are aiming for a political agreement in Copenhagen rather than a legally binding treaty. Still, the goal is to nail down individual targets on emissions cuts and financing for developing countries in a deal that can be turned into a legally binding text next year.

Conference officials were struggling to cope with the increasing crush of people, which will only get worse when the leaders arrive with large delegations and their own press corps.

Thousands of new arrivals for second week
More than 40,000 people applied to attend the conference, already straining to accommodate 15,000. Nongovernment agencies, which sent thousands of people, were told only 1,000 will be allowed in at one time on Thursday and Friday. Journalists will be confined to a media center and forbidden from mingling.

Greenhouse gas factorsThrongs of newly arrived delegates, journalists and activists waited for hours to pass security and get accreditation Monday, the start of the conference’s second and final week. Authorities shut down the subway stop outside the hall because it was too crowded.

Police watched for further demonstrations after briefly detaining 1,200 people over the weekend. About a dozen were arraigned on preliminary charges of assaulting police officers or carrying box-cutters or other sharp objects. There were sporadic reports of vandalism across the city overnight.

The negotiations were meant to extend the Kyoto pact for at least another five years, with deeper emission targets for rich countries. A separate stream of talks dealt with the United States — which rejected Kyoto — and obligations by the developing countries in exchange for tens of billions of dollars a year.

The Africans protested when Hedegaard wanted to lump all the talks together.

“We are seeing the death of the Kyoto Protocol,” Djemouai Kamel of Algeria, the head of the 50-nation Africa group, told reporters.

Mohammed Nashid, the president of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of the Maldives, helped resolve the deadlock with an impassioned speech to the African nations to return to the talks, delegates said.

Outside the conference, Nashid voiced his frustration.

Delegates worry about setbacks
“In all political agreements, you have to be prepared to negotiate. You have to be prepared to compromise, to give and take. That is the nature of politics. But physics isn’t politics. On climate change, there are things on which we cannot negotiate,” he said.

U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern said that with leaders due to arrive soon “any lost time is unhelpful.” He added that in any complex negotiation “it never goes smoothly, never according to plan. There are always bumps.”

Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the dispute set back the talks. “We have lost some time. There is no doubt about that,” Prentice said.

Sakihito Ozawa, Japan’s environment minister, said the African demand to spend more time on the industrial nations’ targets “wasn’t feasible.”

“When I listen to the comments made by the developing countries, it made me very worried,” he said, accusing those nations of trying to disrupt the conference.

On the sidelines of the talks, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a new program drawing funds from international partners to spend $350 million over five years to give developing nations solar energy systems and other clean energy technologies to poor countries. The U.S. share of the cost will be $85 million, with the rest coming from Australia, Britain, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

The International Energy Agency said $8.3 trillion will be spent on new energy in the next 20 years, but the entire amount could be recovered in cheaper energy and in energy efficiency. IEA director Nobuo Tanaka told reporters 93 percent of the additional energy needed by 2030 will be required by developing countries.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Communication breaks down in Copenhagen

  1. Closed captioning of: Communication breaks down in Copenhagen

    >>> fuel than oil.

    >>> overseas now, the goal of a lot of global summits is to get through it and read a statement at the end of it saying it was a fruitful and productive meeting. if that was anybody's goal for this u.n. global summit that's been under way in copenhagen , it has failed miss ra bligably. there's been real disagreement and there's some real hard bargaining going on. our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson has been covering it all the all the way through and with us once again tonight from copenhagen . anne, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. this is crunch time . the head of the u.s. delegation says progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go. and time is running out. above the anxious buzz at the climate talks, today developing countries made themselves heard.

    >> people are dying.

    >> reporter: led by africa, 135 nations, including india and china, staged a five-hour boycott. angry over what they say are insufficient carbon cuts proposed by the world's rich countries .

    >> we've now come in a new era of africans who understand the politics, understand international dynamics and will make a stand to get the best bill for africa.

    >> reporter: a ploy observers say is part of the process even as time runs short.

    >> they want a seat at the table and want a clear signal this process will lead to real commitments for action from the key countries.

    >> reporter: with just four days left, british prime minister gordon brown comes ahead of schedule to ratchet up momentum for a deal. president obama is coming friday, joining more than 110 other world leaders .

    >> it's really important that countries focus on the essential and focus on the pragmatic and focus on getting this done.

    >> reporter: stepping up to prove the point, u.s. energy secretary steven chu with an outreach to poor countries . rich countries will offer clean energy technology such as exchanging solar lamps for kerosene ones in developing nations .

    >> this is our hope that the developed countries working with the undeveloped countries can help them. so they grow an energy-efficient economy good for them, good for us.

    >> reporter: but protesters from southern hemisphere countries want a fair deal and throw shoes at a mural of world leaders to make their point.

    >> the way things are running right now they're being super conservative or really totally stupid.

    >> reporter: now the irony here, brian, is that this summit is going to go down as one of the biggest creators of carbon dioxide emissions . a report commissioned by the danish government found that 46,000 tons of co2 has been created by the summit, most of it by the attendees 'flights alone, including 140 private jets.

    >> anne thompson in copenhagen as it goes on.

    >>> in this country, a major

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