COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Prospects for a strong U.N. climate pact grew more remote on Thursday at the climax of two-year talks as ministers and leaders blamed leading emitters China and the United States for deadlock on carbon cuts.
Dozens of heads of state were arriving in the Danish capital to address the December 7-18 conference, meant to sign a new pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions on Friday. Negotiators’ failure to draft a coherent text means they have a mountain to climb.
“The news that we’ve been receiving is not good,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German parliament.
“I must say very honestly, that the United States’ offer to cut by 4 percent compared to 1990 levels is not ambitious.”
Environment ministers at the talks have so far failed to close a rift over how far the developing world should join industrialized countries in cutting carbon emissions.
U.S. President Barack Obama has offered cuts in greenhouse gases of 3-4 percent versus 1990 levels by 2020, or 17 percent against 2005 levels. The European Union has said it will cut by at least 20 percent against 1990.
Talks stalled overnight on procedure, after some developing nations and China rejected a proposal by the Danish hosts to break talks into smaller groups to speed up progress. They insisted that everyone should see Denmark’s proposal.
“I fear a triumph of form over substance,” said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
China told participants it saw no possibility of achieving a detailed accord to tackle global warming, an official from another nation involved in the talks said. The official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the Chinese had instead suggested issuing “a short political declaration of some sort.”
India’s environment minister accused rich countries of planning a “propaganda campaign” to blame developing nations for any breakdown in negotiations. Developing economies are expected to add almost all future growth in carbon emissions.
“We are in the end game,” said Jairam Ramesh. “It’s only a matter of time before the blame game starts. Already some developed countries are accusing the G77 (developing nation group), Africa. This is completely, incomprehensively wrong.”
European environment ministers said talks were in danger.
“We’ve got a serious situation,” German environment minister Norbert Roettgen told Reuters.
The Copenhagen summit is meant to agree a global climate deal, as a basis for agreement on a full treaty next year, intended to avoid dangerous climate change and drive a shift to a greener global economy less dependent on fossil fuels.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters on Thursday that China was committed to the negotiations. “China hopes the Copenhagen meeting is successful, and has always taken a constructive attitude,” she said.
About 120 heads of state and government will join the talks on Thursday and Friday. Obama plans to arrive on Friday morning.
While the overall picture appears bleak, there has been some progress in areas critical to reaching a deal.
Africa dramatically scaled back its expectations for climate aid from rich nations on Wednesday, and Japan pledged about $11 billion in public funds to 2012 to help poor countries adapt to a warmer world and cut their emissions.