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Leaked Danish draft shows deep divide

By Juliet Eilperin

The uproar here in Copenhagen Tuesday over a Danish draft plan for a future climate agreement shows exactly why the negotiations are so difficult: The rules of the game will likely have to change in order to have a meaningful deal, and many countries have yet to embrace that fact.

The proposed text, leaked to the Guardian newspaper in Britain, would revamp the way major developing countries participate in a global climate agreement by compelling them to commit to mandatory cuts by mid-century.

It makes a distinction between the major emerging economies and those the Danes describe as "the most vulnerable," and gives the World Bank a prominent role in distributing funds to poorer nations so they can combat climate change. (See the Guardian's story here.)

While in some ways the plan codifies what many industrialized countries, including the U.S., have said for months, several developing countries and their allies in the environmental movement decried the move.

The way interest groups viewed it depended on what space they occupied on the political spectrum. Liberal groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace criticized it, on the grounds that industrialized countries bore historic responsibility for the current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

"The Obama administration's role in what appears to be a secret plot to strong-arm through an agreement forcing poor countries to bear much of the cost of reducing emissions is despicable," said Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica. "President Obama cannot lead the world while wheeling and dealing from the back-room. These are supposed to be negotiations about how to solve a problem, not about how to appease the United States government."

But Gustavo A. Silva-Chavez, a climate and forest specialist at the more centrist Environmental Defense Fund, said the leaked document "clearly shows ambition. There is a clear desire from the Danes to reduce global emissions as soon as possible and with efforts from both developed and developing countries. It is far better to start with a strong proposal in the first few days, than to start negotiations on something that has already been watered down."

Which side wins the argument will in large part determine whether this pivotal round of talks produces a meaningful agreement within the next two weeks.

Updated 4:20 p.m.

The Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy has released a statement that says:

"Under no circumstances is this a 'Secret Danish draft' for a new climate change agreement. Such a text does not exist. In this kind of process, many different working papers are circulated amongst many different parties with their hands on the process. These papers are the basis for informal consultations that contribute with input used for testing various positions. Therefore, many papers exist. That is quite normal. The commentary from the Guardian only shows, how outspoken nervousness is at this junction."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  December 8, 2009; 2:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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