Time Running Out in Copenhagen

BY Anna Shoup  December 15, 2009 at 2:49 PM EDT

Time is running out for climate summit negotiators in Copenhagen to hash out major remaining differences on a climate change agreement before the arrival of heads of state and the close of the summit Friday.

The formal high-level phase of the talks opened Tuesday evening, and organizers said ministers will work late into the night to try to make progress on some of the so-far intractable issues.

“No one will get everything they want in this negotiation. But if we work together and get a deal, everyone will get what they need,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the final phase opening.

Just how far negotiations still need to go was apparent by what was missing from the draft agreement circulating Tuesday: No concensus has been reached around goals for emissions targets or a date for the peaking of global emissions, as well as financing and a proposed goal limit on global warming, all key factors that developed and developing nations have split on.

The continued contention over such fundamental issues has prompted President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the U.N. chief, and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen to start reaching out to other leaders personnally, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Any agreement would have to bridge that gap highlighted by yesterday’s walk out of African and developing countries around the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which many industrialized countries would like to see absorbed into a new agreement, and developed countries willingness to make deeper emissions cuts. The gulf between the two groups has been a constant theme in the process as developing nations have expressed concern they are being pushed aside by the world’s economic powers.

Offering his assurance that would not happen, the head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo De Boer, said Tuesday, “This process is not about ramming the interests of the few down the throats of the many.”

The United States and China have also been clashing over major issues like financing, making emissions cuts binding, and opening countries to oversight by third party evaluators.

U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern said Tuesday: “You can’t even begin to have an environmentally sound agreement without the adequate, significant participation of China.”

Watch Tuesday night’s NewsHour for a report from Ray Suarez from the scene of the Copenhagen summit.