With just five days of negotiating time now left before the concluding talks in Copenhagen in December, delegates said it appeared a weak deal was the most likely outcome, and no deal at all was a possibility.
However, President Obama’s expected visit to Oslo to receive the Nobel peace prize in the middle of the climate talks raised hopes that he would make the short journey to Copenhagen to galvanise governments.
“World leadership is now vital if the talks are not to fail completely. It is inconceivable that Obama could now ignore the climate change talks,” said one diplomat.
The citation for the prize specifically mentions the president “now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting”.
However, China, India, Brazil and other major developing countries lined up with environment and development groups to condemn both the US and EU for demanding a brand-new climate agreement.
This would bring the US aboard an agreement but in the eyes of most countries would mean the effective end of the Kyoto protocol and possibly allow countries to set their own targets and timetables for cuts.
“It’s irresponsible to even contemplate the idea of discarding the Kyoto protocol. It’s the lifeblood of any future agreement. It is the only legally binding agreement that gives the certainty of moving rapidly to addressing the climate concerns of billions of people,” said said Di-Aping Lumumba, Sudanese chair of the G77, a group of 130 developing countries.
“Developed countries have a massive leadership deficit. It’s now up to their leaders to intervene and give a direction to the negotiations rather than waste everyone’s time,” he said.
Shyam Saran, Indian special envoy on climate change, said: “The EU must change its position. There have been inadmissible attempts to abandon the Kyoto protocol. This would mean rewriting the key principles. This is not what we agreed by consensus.”
But the EU and UN brushed off concerns. “We are not killing Kyoto,” said Anders Turesson, chair of the EU working group in the negotiations. “We want to preserve the contents [of the protocol]. The only way to do that is to find a new home for it in a new single legal instrument.”
“This is trying to build something bigger and better than Kyoto. The fear is that there would be a race to the bottom. It is the opposite,” he said.
Yvo de Boer, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted there were now “serious” problems. “The spirit remains constructive and we have seen advances in Bangkok, but there is a strong fear that there is an attempt to kill the Kyoto protocol. That is causing great dissatisfaction,” he said.
Environment and development groups accused the EU and US of holding poor countries to ransom. “The rift between rich and poor has intensified because rich countries have not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to escalating impacts of climate change,” said Oxfam senior climate adviser Antonio Hill. “The US has been silent on the scale of finance it will commit to.”
“Both the US and the EU have tried to shift the burden on to developing countries, arguing that they should even pay towards the costs of adapting to climate change despite their minimal contribution to the problem,” said Tom Sharman, ActionAid’s head of climate change. The only bright spot in the negotiations was Norway’s decision to increase its emissions reduction target to 40% on 1990 levels by 2020, he said.
“The EU has only increased developing country mistrust and the US is trying to impose its own domestic limitations on the world. It’s time for President Obama to be the climate leader he says he is,” said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International climate policy adviser