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Dispatch from Copenhagen: Protestors Try to Storm Talks

This entry is cross-posted from Europe Insight.

Snow was thick on the ground in Copenhagen on Dec. 16, but that didn’t put off thousands of protestors who tried to force their way in the climate change negotiations. With colorful posters and anti-global warming chants, they had started off early from the Danish capital’s city center. But near the Bella Center, where delegates from 192 countries have gathered to hammer out a climate change deal, police in riot gear blocked their path.

At least 200 activists were arrested, while many others were turned away. “They’re trying to stop our legitimate protest,” says Linda, a 23-year-old student who had left her house just after dawn to join the march. “World leaders must hear our voice.”

Despite the protestors’ failure to breach the Bella Center’s security, many inside the Copenhagen summit share their fears over the stumbling climate change talks. The main issues—binding carbon reduction targets for developed countries, possible CO2 cuts in emerging economies like China and India, and development aid for the poorest countries—remain unsolved. And as global leaders start to arrive in Copenhagen, it’s unclear whether policymakers can agree before the summit closes on Dec. 18.

That’s the buzz making the rounds inside the Bella Center, and it mirrors fears dating back months that global leaders would fail to reach a compromise. With negotiations expected to head well into the night until the summit closes, delegates are holing out hope that a non-binding framework will make it through before Dec. 18. Others suggest negotiations will be suspended, only to be picked up in the new year. The West blames emerging economies, and vice versa. Non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups say it’s both sides’ fault.

That frustration explains why so many took the streets in Copenhagen on Dec. 16: Everyone wants a deal, but nobody knows how it will be achieved. As temperatures head below zero in the Danish capital, the heat remains squarely on politicians to push through a climate change compromise.

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