Negotiations have been deadlocked for a week as developing countries resisted efforts to replace or downgrade the 1997 protocol, which places legally binding commitments on rich – but not poor – nations.
Now, less than a day before more than 115 world leaders take over the reins, the chair of the talks gave up an attempt to ram through a “Danish text”, leaked to the Guardian last week, which would have ended Kyoto. In a victory for the developing world, negotiators will now move forward on a two-track basis, one part of which maintains the integrity of Kyoto.
Hillary Clinton gave a further boost to the flagging negotiations by pledging US involvement in the $100bn (£62bn) a year international fund to help poor nations adapt to climate change. The Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also gave ground by saying his country would accept tighter international monitoring of greenhouse gases, following China’s indication yesterday that it had softened its opposition to an inspection regime.
But huge differences remain over levels of emissions cuts, financing and monitoring. The chaotic end game to the negotiations could mean that world leaders only have time to hastily paper over a face-saving agreement.
The Indian environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said: “We have lost a day and a half. I don’t want to point fingers. We must get talks back on a substantive track by the time the world leaders meet tomorrow.”
Other countries were also working to resuscitate the talks. A UK official said: “We are not giving up. The irony is that on substance we have had considerable movement in the last few days. For the talks to be in this state simply over matters of procedure rather than substance is immensely disappointing.”
China – the world’s biggest emitter and an essential component to any deal – also said it was still committed to the negotiations. The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing: “China hopes the Copenhagen meeting is successful, and has always taken a constructive attitude.”
The impasse over the Kyoto protocol stems from its status as the only legally binding agreement on climate change, requiring industrialised nations – but not developing nations – to cut their emissions. Rich nations want a fresh treaty, arguing the world has changed and the major emerging economies such and China and India must commit to curbing their huge and fast growing national emissions. But the developing nations argue that rich nations grew wealthy by polluting the atmosphere and must take primary responsibility for it, which can only be guaranteed by Kyoto.
The Maldives president, Mohamed Nasheed, whose island country could be almost entirely submerged by rising seas, said he was staring at failure.
“We will not have a draft. There is no draft. We are facing a situation where it is possible that nothing comes out of [Copenhagen] unless the heads of state decide to come up with it themselves,” Nasheed told an NGO meeting last night.
“I am very nervous and very disappointed. During the course of the past two years, negotiators were supposed to have come up with a document for us to see and consider tomorrow, but they have failed.”
In a story headlined Denmark gives up, the influential Berlingske newspaper quoted a senior source in the host delegation, who said the failure to agree on a single text was a monumental disappointment to the Danes.
“During the whole process, the problem is that this is a huge puzzle where all the pieces had to fall in place at the same time. But to do that, the countries had to make a serious effort and they have been unwilling to do so,” the source was quoted as saying