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COP15 Copenhagen climate summit: Day 5

Richard Black | 19:12 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

OK, they're a long way short of constituting a final deal... but two draft texts, drawn up by conference chairmen and released to delegates today, demonstrate where compromises may have to be made if this fortnight is to result in the deal that so many governments say they want.

globe_getty226.jpgThe chairmen of the Long-term Co-operative Action (LCA) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) tracks have spent big chunks of the year listening to what various parties want, out in the open and behind the scenes. So these texts are the distillations of people in the know.

(If you don't know your LCA from your KP, see my previous post for something that'll either clarify or further confuse.)

Developing countries have won two battles. Most importantly, the LCA text sets out a level of emission cuts for the developed world that is beyond what countries have so far pledged.

The minimum is a 25% cut from 1990 levels by 2020. According to the European Climate Foundation's number-crunchers, the best that's on offer right now amounts to about 18%.

This isn't developing countries demanding it, remember. This is what an independent chair has assessed as an achievable meeting-point for all sides.

Breaking the numbers down further, it's also clear that when measured against the traditional base year of 1990, the US is being asked to do less than the rest of the developed world - a 15% cut by 2020 - whereas other rich countries would have to find 30%.

The texts include a lot of gaps and a lot of places where the dreaded square brackets exist side by side as alternative suggested outcomes, like this: "...the increase in the global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed [2C][1.5C]".

That one is a really fundamental divide.

1.5_595_ap.jpg

According to a UK Met Office analysis released earlier in the week, 1.5C is barely achievable even with dramatic emissions cuts. But put that argument to the poorer countries that are demanding it, and they say it's not their problem - if the West had got on with cutting emissions 10 years ago when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, and if tougher limits had followed, 1.5C would by now be achievable; so deal with it.

Less fundamental, but with equal potential for controversy, are the alternative versions of text that would either prevent or allow money from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism from being used on nuclear reactors... a clean technology for some, exactly the opposite for others.

What else is contentious? Developing country emission curbs wouldn't be legally binding, which is an issue for some, and there is very little on international monitoring and verification of emission curbs, which China especially is said to be dead set against. And there is precious little text on finance.

Talking of finance; the other big news around the centre today blew in from Brussels, where EU leaders finally decided how much they would put on the table for the next three years to "quick-start" emissions reduction and climate adaptation in the poorest and most climate-vulnerable countries.

EU leaders exuded satisfaction that they'd produced something that will seal a deal here. But when countries that are supposed to be signing that deal partly on the basis of how much money they'll receive describe it as "woefully inadequate", as the Association of Small Island States (Aosis) leader Dessima Williams did, you have to wonder.

stern595_getty.jpg

There is a strand of opinion here (there are many others too, to be fair) that holds that the EU and the world's major powers approached this summit a little too much like a private deal. If they could agree among themselves, the rest of the world would follow.

And maybe it will. Most countries now are sending heads of government or heads of state for the final day or two, and of course most of them can change tack in an instant if the right incentives are offered.

Or maybe it won't. Maybe this is the occasion when the developing world, or parts of it at any rate, says "no more" - as it has with the Doha Round of trade talks.

During the week ahead when the weather is forecast to be even colder and more gloomy than it has been so far, temperatures inside the centre look set to soar as the climax approaches - a textbook case of localised warming.

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