New Climate Draft Causing Backlash in Copenhagen

BY Talea Miller  December 16, 2009 at 8:04 AM EST

Updated at 11:07am ET

FROM COPENHAGEN: Danish police cordoning off protesters outside the U.N. climate summit weren’t the only ones doing damage control Wednesday.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over the presidency of the U.N. climate change summit this morning from Danish minister Connie Hedegaard, a surprise move attributed by the summit leader to the unprecedented number of heads of state attending the climate conference this week, but coming at a time when confidence in a final agreement is low. Rasmussen had a rocky start to his reign, immediately coming under fire from a tense plenary session demanding answers for a new draft text designed to pick up the pace on the lagging negotiations — but that was not circulated to all parties for input.

“We have the hope that we could work on a solely legitimate basis but unfortunately the presidency put forward something from the sky,” said China’s chief negotiator Su Wei, who rejected the notion that China was trying to obstruct the process, arguing “actually it is the illegitimate move by some parties, by putting forward the text from the presidency without fully consulting with the parties that is the real issue that obstructs the progress.”

Rasmussen insisted the text would be presented to the parties later in the day and that at that point questions would be addressed about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which is an ever-growing fault line between industrialized and developing countries, without “prejudging how we should continue,” he said.

However he urged the negotiators to move forward and said it his responsibility as president of the summit to facilitate progress.

“I think the world is expecting us to reach some kind of agreement regarding climate change, not just discussing procedure, procedure, procedure,” he said.

Among the many other countries that expressed frustration over the new text were India and Brazil, which stressed that negotiators had worked through the night only to feel slighted in the morning by the emergence of the text that was developed without full participation of the parties.

About 115 heads of state are expected at the summit, many of whom are arriving Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post misidentifed Connie Hedegaard’s role in the circulation of the draft text. It has now been corrected.