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Nearly 1,000 arrested outside climate talks

Several hundred people among tens of thousands of climate activists are detained in Copenhagen as industrial and developing countries bicker over a draft climate agreement.
Police in Copenhagen, Denmark, lined up hundreds of those arrested Saturday on a street where they sat handcuffed for several hours.
Police in Copenhagen, Denmark, lined up hundreds of those arrested Saturday on a street where they sat handcuffed for several hours.MADS NISSEN / AFP-Getty Images
/ Source: news services

Hundreds of people among tens of thousands of activists were detained Saturday as industrial countries at the U.N. climate conference here criticized a draft pact for not making stronger demands on major developing countries.

Police said they rounded up 968 people who had gathered toward the back of a rally through Copenhagen, part of a worldwide "Day of Action."

Police said four cars were set on fire during the evening elsewhere in the Danish capital.

A police officer received minor injuries when he was hit by a rock thrown from the group and one protester was injured by fireworks, police added.

Police spokesman Rasmus Bernt Skovsgaard said that "there was some cobblestone-throwing and at the same time people were putting on masks. We decided to go for preventive detentions to give the peaceful demonstration the possibility to move on."

One activist group accused the police of abuse after they detained around 400 black-clad demonstrators and forced them to sit on a road for hours in near-freezing temperatures, hands bound behind their backs.

Earlier police said they had detained 19 people, mainly for breaking Denmark's strict laws against carrying pocket knives or wearing masks during demonstrations.

Most of the 4-mile-long march was held in a carnival atmosphere.

Estimates of the number of people in the march under chilly sunny skies varied from a police estimate of 25,000 to 100,000 given by organizers, who hope to pressure the delegates and summit next week of 110 world leaders.

Some activists dressed as polar bears, some as penguins with signs like "Save the Humans!".

View images of a landmark climate conference and the environmental problems it hopes to address.

Some held a giant balloon of an inflatable snowman about to melt — a symbol of warming tied mainly to the burning of fossil fuels that the U.N. panel of climate scientists says will bring desertification, floods, heat waves and rising seas.

"There is no planet B" and "Change the politics, not the climate", read other banners.

"Mountains are changing, glaciers are melting," said Nepalese Sherpa Pertamba, who came to Denmark to demonstrate with thirty mountaineers. "Now is the time to think about future generations."

Activists said 4,000 events, such as marches or candlelit vigils, were being held Saturday from Fiji to the United States to show support for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Australia, "Walk Against Warming" marches were held in several cities. In Sydney, protesters carried placards saying "No new coal mines", a reference to Australia's status as one of the world's leading exporters of coal.

In Italy, thousands staged stunts and protests in 100 piazzas across the country, from Venice's St. Mark's Square to a historical piazza in downtown Rome.

In Manila, Philippines, 200 activists staged a festive rally. Dozens of Indonesian environmental activists rallied in front of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

Some progress, but also tension
At the conference hall in Copenhagen, delegates said negotiators had advanced on texts such as defining how new green technologies such as wind and solar power can be supplied to developing nations and in promoting use of forests to soak up greenhouse gases.

"We have made considerable progress over the course of the first week," Connie Hedegaard, the Danish cabinet minister who presides over talks, told delegates.

But delegates said there were deep splits on issues such as raising funds for poor nations and sharing out the burden of greenhouse gas emissions curbs.

"The next week is going to be crucial," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists.

Initial reaction to a negotiating text submitted Friday underscored the split between the U.S.-led wealthy countries and countries still struggling to overcome poverty and catch up with the modern world.

The tightly focused document was meant to lay out the crunch themes for environment ministers to wrestle with as they prepare for a summit of some 110 heads of state and government at the end of next week.

U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing said the draft failed to address the contentious issue of carbon emissions by emerging economies. "The current draft didn't work in terms of where it is headed," Pershing said in the plenary, supported by the European Union, Japan and Norway.

But the EU also directed criticism at the U.S., insisting it could make greater commitments to push the talks forward without stretching the legislation pending in Congress. Both the U.S. and China should be legally bound to keep whatever promises they make, said Swedish Environment Minister Anders Carlgren.

Environment ministers started arriving in the Danish capital Saturday for informal talks before world leaders join the summit late next week.

Kyoto would be extended for now
The draft distributed to the 192-nation conference set no firm figures on financing or on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It said all countries together should reduce emissions by a range of 50 percent to 95 percent by 2050, and rich countries should cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, in both cases using 1990 as the baseline year.

The draft continues the system for industrial countries set up in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by which they are legally bound to targets for emission reductions and face penalties if they fall short. It makes no similar requirements of developing countries like China and India, which have pledged to reduce the growth rate of emissions but reject the notion of turning those voluntary pledges into legal commitments.

So far, industrial nations' pledges to cut emissions have amounted to far less than the minimum.

The draft also left open the form of the agreement — whether it will be a legal document or a political declaration.

Ian Fry, the representative of the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, made an emotional appeal for the strongest format, one that would legally bind all nations to commitments to control carbon emissions.

"I woke up this morning crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit," Fry said, choking as he spoke in the plenary crowded with hundreds of delegates. "The fate of my country rests in your hands."

European Union leaders announced in Brussels this week after two days of tough talks that they would commit $3.6 billion a year until 2012 to a short-term fund for poor countries. Most of this money came from Britain, France and Germany. Many cash-strapped former East bloc countries balked at donating but eventually all gave at least a token amount to preserve the 27-nation bloc's unity.

Still unknown is how much the wealthier nations, such as the U.S. and Japan, will contribute.