U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Moves Copenhagen Climate Summit Talks Forward

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 17 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instilled the stalled Copenhagen climate negotiations with new hope Thursday when she pledged that Washington would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations deal with climate change.

The announcement came a day before more than 100 world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are due to meet in the Danish capital to sign a climate-protection treaty after two years of tedious negotiations.

It has been especially chaotic over the past days in the overcrowded Bella Center, with rich economies pitted against poor nations on several hot-potato issues.

“I know that the talks have been difficult,” Clinton said. “But the time is at hand for all countries to reach for common ground. … We have lost precious time in these past days. … It can no longer be about us versus them.”

The new finance commitment sends new hope as the United States and other rich nations had been slow to commit to long-term finance.

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official and probably the person who knows best what’s going on in the negotiations, was optimistic after Clinton’s statement.

“I would say hold tight and mind the doors — the cable car is moving again,” he said, adding, however, that he wanted to hear how much of the $100 billion Washington would contribute, which Clinton did not specify.

The sum is at the low end of what aid groups say developing countries need, but it’s in line with pledges from major powers, including the EU and Japan.

Clinton called it “a lot of money,” adding it was “appropriate, usable and will be effective.”

But only if there actually is a binding agreement.

Clinton warned Washington could not imagine one without regulations to boost transparency, mainly to monitor emissions by China.

Clinton said Washington would not agree to a deal “in the absence of transparency from … the first-biggest emitter and now nearly, if not already, the second-biggest economy.”

China recently surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming. It is also destined to overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.

Observers say China has played a blocking role in the past 48 hours, indicating that it will not commit itself to a treaty containing legally binding emissions reductions. Washington would be ready to do so, but only if major emerging economies — include India, Brazil and Russia — hop on board, experts say.

But it’s not just China. The West will also have to convince African nations that it is doing enough. They said Thursday the industrialized countries need to boost their emissions reduction commitments and provide more money for the poorest nations or risk a collapse of the summit.

“To have no deal is better to have than a bad deal,” said Algeria’s Kamel Djemouai, speaking for the Africa Group.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday urged Western nations to come out with some last-minute attempts to save the negotiations.

“I hope that some industrialized countries can add to their current offers” of emissions reductions to reach global reductions of “at least minus 25 percent by 2020″ based on 1990 levels, Merkel said Thursday in a speech to representatives from nearly 200 countries here.

On the procedural side, things are moving again.

Two working groups were set up Thursday to hammer away at two texts — one would continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, and a new, second one would formulate commitments for the United States, which has not adopted Kyoto, and the developing countries.

“This is very encouraging. We now have clarity on the process, we have clarity on the documents that will be the basis for work, we have clarity the process will be transparent,” de Boer said.

Clinton also managed to disperse rumors that Obama might not attend, saying he would do so Friday.

“Obviously we hope that he has something to come for,” she added.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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