Climate Deal Hinges on CO2 Verification
By Jeremy van Loon and Jim Efstathiou Jr.
(Bloomberg) — The top U.S. diplomat arrived at climate change talks in Copenhagen and said the world's biggest economy would be part of an agreement only if emissions reductions in poorer nations can be verified.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is prepared to contribute to an aid package valued at $100 billion by 2020 for developing countries to curb greenhouse gases and cope with climate change. The offer is conditional on commitments from China and other nations to "transparency" in monitoring pledges to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, she said.
The U.S., China and the European Union, the world's biggest polluters, are racing against the clock to complete a climate change deal with one day left of UN talks in the Danish capital. Negotiators have yet to agree on measures to confirm how nations will limit gas discharges they promise.
"The U.S. is ready to do our part," Clinton told reporters today at the Bella Center in Copenhagen where the talks are taking place. Failure to meet U.S. conditions on monitoring reductions is a "deal breaker," she said.
Clinton is holding meetings today with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao away from the site of the talks, a U.S. State Department official said who declined to be named.
Formal negotiations resumed today after a decision to proceed with two UN drafts, one that extends the existing Kyoto Protocol climate accord and a new agreement that calls for emissions curbs from developing nations.
'No Insurmountable Wall'
An accord that sets out details on financing and technology for poor nations as well as an agreement to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is still possible, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today.
"My talks this week convinced me that while the challenges are difficult there is no insurmountable wall of division to reaching agreement now," Brown told a hall full of world leaders.
United Nations envoys from 193 countries meeting for two weeks in Copenhagen have so far failed to complete a climate- change treaty because of divisions over how much to pay poor nations and whether China and India should have their promises to cut carbon measured and verified by international auditors.
Almost 120 prime ministers, presidents and vice presidents from nations accounting for 89 percent of the world's gross domestic product begin meetings today to unblock the impasse.
The UN official who supervises the talks expressed optimism today.
"Hold tight and mind the doors, the cable car is moving again," Yvo De Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters today. "We now have clarity on the process, we have clarity on the documents that will be the basis of the work."
The Obama administration wants any climate accord to have tools to verify that nations are abiding by promises to cut emissions. China and India don't want their national commitments to become legally binding in an international treaty. And China said it needs no help policing itself.
"The mitigation action we have set for China will be fully guaranteed legally, domestically," China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters. "We promise to make our actions transparent."
Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister, welcomed the U.S. funding offer.
"It demonstrates a certain seriousness on the part of the United States to recognize that finance is a key," Ramesh said in an interview. "I wish she had not tied the conditionality, but I'm sure we can work around it."
Fred Krupp, head of the New York-based advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, said Clinton was "spot on" to emphasize transparency. "It's essential to have a system that we can believe in, to know who's doing what."
China's lead negotiator at the talks, Su Wei, said an agreement can be reached in Copenhagen that China "hopes" could be translated into a final deal "by the middle of next year, if possible, or if not, then by the end of the year."
While the world's biggest polluters remain optimistic about reaching a deal, delegates from Africa and other developing nations are less willing to accept a compromise.
"No deal is better than to have a bad deal, particularly for Africa," said Algerian envoy Kamel Djemouai, who speaks for 53 African nations. "To get to a bad deal with our heads of state here is quite difficult for anybody to accept here."
A deal this week in Copenhagen may include a timeline to help negotiators tackle obstacles that are holding back progress. A series of meetings are planned through 2010, with a final session set for Mexico City a year from now.
U.S. Representative Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who does not believe man-made emissions are the main cause of global warming, called demands for climate aid "environmental blackmail."
"You've got to get that through the Congress and I don't think you're going to do that given the budget deficit," Barton said in an interview.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Copenhagen via email@example.com.