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Climate Negotiators Under The Gun

Climate Change: Pressure increases as deadline nears for agreement in Copenhagen

by Cheryl Hogue
December 16, 2009

Credit: Cheryl Hogue/C&EN
de Boer
Credit: Cheryl Hogue/C&EN
de Boer

Negotiators at the Copenhagen climate change conference knuckled down today, with pressure building for them to come up with a completed agreement before the conference ends on Dec. 18.

"We have come a long way. Now we have to finish the job," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the meeting. Meanwhile, protesters are demonstrating outside and inside the Bella Center, the venue for the meeting. They are calling for negotiators to come up with a tough agreement to combat climate change.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over the negotiations today. Rasmussen intends to draft a proposed, compromise agreement either today or tomorrow.

"The next 24 hours are absolutely critical," according to Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate change official. The accord needs to be finished by Thursday, when heads of state start arriving at the meeting.

Historically, global negotiations on climate change agreements have run down to the wire, with a deal squeezed out just as a meeting was ending, a number of officials and observers in Copenhagen have pointed out.

The Copenhagen talks remain mired over several issues. Two of them are serious sticking points between industrialized and developing countries. One is how much the industrialized nations are willing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and how much emerging economies, notably China, are willing to limit growth in their emissions. A second is how much money the industrialized world will provide to developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and install clean energy technologies.

In other action, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave an address today at the Copenhagen meeting. He stressed that a successful outcome of this U.N. meeting is key to Senate passage of a clean energy and climate change bill next year. Kerry is working with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to craft such legislation, with hope of moving it through the Senate in the spring of 2010.

The House of Representatives passed an energy and climate bill in June.



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