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Copenhagen diary: Thursday 17 December 2009

Susan Watts | 18:52 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

After the chaos of yesterday, a sense of serenity descended on the centre of Copenhagen this morning, along with the snow.

But inside the climate change conference centre there has been mounting tension. This morning it still looked doubtful that there would be a text for world leaders to work from by the end of today, or tomorrow.

And there were also rumours that the Danish hosts were about to throw in the towel altogether.

They have been coming in for criticism over their handling of the process of the talks, accused of pulling fresh texts out of their back pockets whenever work on two main texts gets tricky.

This seems particularly to have annoyed the Chinese, who are working to the strict UN process that's been chuntering along for the past two years.

I asked Connie Hedegaard about this. She's the Danish environment minister who has been chairing the talks, and she confirmed that the talks ARE now focussed on TWO texts - one dealing with the Kyoto Protocol, under which only the developed world makes cuts, and a Copenhagen document of some kind.

Attempts to marry the two into one text seemed to have been abandoned, for now at least.

But now the US and Chinese teams are playing "hardball" in a stand-off over transparency.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters this morning that "transparency" from the Chinese is a US bottom line. Without this there will be no money, she said.

What she means by transparency is what is known in conference jargon as the "MRVs", or monitoring, reporting and verification.

In English, this is is the method nations use to confirm that others are actually making the cuts greenhouse gas emissions that they promise, for example by sending in inspectors, perhaps.

But the Chinese are not budging.They said today that they will be "transparent" with the rest of the world so long as this involves dialogue and co-operation, but not if it means infringing on China's sovereignty - so inspections would be out.

This morning the US moved on long term finance, saying it would "play its role" in generating a $100bn fund for developing countries by 2020.

This would be both public and private money, but there was no explicit number on any of the amounts the US might give, or raise.

Nevertheless Ed Miliband, the UK Climate Change Secretary, said this was a big move, which he consdiers significant:

"The challenge for us is to make sure that sum doesn't get left on the table without a deal, that would be tragic" he told reporters.

Overall, he said he feels more optimistic today than yesterday, and that it's now a race against the clock:

"The deal remains very much in the balance... there are still challenges of process, and it's an uphill task."

He clearly thinks the whole thing could still be scuppered on matters of process, not substance - as he told Newsnight last night.

On China, the talks continue. "There are very tense talks going on with China over MRV," Mr Miliband said.

The chatter at the conference is that these negotiations could now drag on beyond Friday into Saturday.

Tomorrow, Europe could agree deeper emissions cuts, which could help. But with more than 100-odd matters for discussion still in square brackets - or not agreed - tonight's all-night talks will still be very difficult.


  • Comment number 1.

    follow the money not the texts.

    Standard Bank and China's Guodian Power have signed a carbon emission reductions purchase agreement

    The UN last week banned several Chinese wind farms from participating in the scheme, having temporarily suspended the whole country, over fears they had been playing the system.

    But a system where emissions cuts can be sold among countries introduces extreme complexity into the system. It quickly (and deliberately) becomes so technical that nobody can follow it – no concerned citizen, no journalist, and barely even full-time environmental groups.

    Trick one: hot air. The nations of the world were allocated permits to release greenhouse gases back in 1990, when the Soviet Union was still a vast industrial power – so it was given a huge allocation. But the following year, it collapsed, and its industrial base went into freefall – along with its carbon emissions. It was never going to release those gases after all. But Russia and the eastern European countries have held on to them in all negotiations as "theirs".

    Trick two: double-counting.

    Trick three: the fake forests....

    Madoff would be proud?

    monetising carbon is a pre credit crunch idea when some people could still claim that markets are the best arranger of resources [global or national]. given the total collapse of that idea why are people still pumping it when it comes to 'climate'?

    because its easy money?

    in the same way gordon was wrong about iraq, wrong about light touch regulation he is wrong about carbon trading. it's a pattern.

  • Comment number 2.

    The developed countries and some developing countries are tied to coal and oil. China starts up a new coal fired energy plant each week. If the pollution remained in China that would be OK but it does not. The developed countries have an accumulation of pollution over 100 years of fossil fule use. The issue here is the use of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industries exercise a great deal of influence regardless of the political system. No real efforts are being made to develop competition for fossil fuels, everyone is aware of the limitations of wind and solar but they keep being promoted as if they are somehow the answer. This is about the inability of governments to move in a different direction because of the corruption in how they make decisions.

  • Comment number 3.

    The deadlock in the Copenhagen Climate Summit has given an opportunity to Maurice Strong and his supporters to raise their voices.

    daddy's here.

    also why nothing on the skeptic's conference? isn't it unbalanced to keep giving one view? isn't that campaigning rather than reporting? what kind of public service is that? a news service isn't there to sell us 'their truth' but report facts?

    ...Nearly every media report about the event noted that ExxonMobil had provided some funding for the group. What most of those articles did not mention is that the oil industry — and especially the Rockefeller family — have bankrolled countless global-warming alarmists and events, such as the so-called “350” global warming protest that took place in late October....

    the only uk source is the telegraph.

  • Comment number 4.

    isn't climate change a rich kid's religion?

    Upper-class eco-warriors

    are they really going to give it all up and live in a mud hut?

  • Comment number 5.

    Lol, I've had a decent night's sleep
    And hope it's how it's going to keep,
    Though no doubt later on I’ll have a snooze
    In the evening or late afternoon.

    It looks like there is progress in Copenhagen.
    I enjoyed the Kenyan minister’s talk with a boy of about 7.
    And below the link of it I duly enclose
    Which to the bloggers to watch I propose.


  • Comment number 6.


    Is that your best shot Barack? You wouldn't get a fiddled 'F' in an English exam for that! What does it ACTUALLY mean?

    We had enough trouble with your threat (was it?) of 'THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY' and now we have to struggle with how to 'choose the future over the past'.

    If we choose the future (having worked out how) will it take us to the RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY? Will we KNOW when we get there, or is it - sort of - retrospective. Is there a Nobel Prize in it - at all . . .

    If YOU are what it takes to be King of the World, small wonder we are headed for the UNDERBELLY OF DOOMSDAY. See - I can do it too!

    Go home BO. We have enough empty rhetoric this side (though poor Jimmie Brown can't do oratory). Go back to the land of Strut-n-Boom, and wait for bogus-consensus Armageddon.

    Oh say, can you see? Thought not.

  • Comment number 7.

    So there is no trust

    And how long have we had human war ?
    And how long will we have human wars ?

    thrust to the trust
    straight through the heart


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