COPENHAGEN, Denmark, December 17, 2009 (ENS) – The United States made a move to save the contentious UN climate talks in Copenhagen from failure today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.
“We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance,” Clinton said. “This will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly, again I repeat, for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.”
But Clinton said that this commitment is only possible “in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation.”
Some 130 world leaders are now in Copenhagen attempting to forge an agreement that will limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels. The overall goal for the meeting is to establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires.
Negotiations up to this point have been difficult and one of the main sticking points has been the level of financial support that developed nations such as the United States can provide for poorer countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and did the least to cause it.
“There is a way forward based on a number of core elements,” Clinton told reporters, “decisive national actions, an operational accord that internationalizes those actions, assistance for nations that are the most vulnerable and least prepared to meet the effects of climate change, and standards of transparency that provide credibility to the entire process. The world community should accept no less. And the United States is ready to embrace this path.”
Clinton said the United States will only be willing to work towards the $100 billion annual goal if an operational agreement is reached in Copenhagen. “In the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that kind of financial commitment, at least from the United States,” she said.
President Barack Obama will arrive on Friday and will address conference delegates and world leaders. Clinton emphasized that the next few hours are crucial to reaching an agreement.
“We’re running out of time,” Clinton said. “It’s unfortunate that there have been problems with the process, difficulties with certain parties being willing to come to the table, all kinds of discussions and disagreements, sometimes about the past rather than about the future. But the underlying reality is, we have to do everything we can to reach this agreement.”
“Because in the absence of a new agreement that binds everyone to their relative commitments and responsibilities,” she said, “where the developed countries take on these obligations and where the developing countries work on their own mitigation and adaptation measures, with a transparency mechanism, there will not be the kind of concerted, global action that we so desperately need.”
China says it is willing to provide details about its actions to control carbon emissions, moving to meet a key U.S. demand for verification of China’s promises to fight global warming.
Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters Thursday that China is ready for “dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China’s sovereignty.”
The European countries have called for an extra high-level meeting to be held tonight in an accelerated attempt to reach an agreement. “The EU Presidency and the European Commission are working to decisively step up the negotiations, the Swedish Presidency said in a statement today. “We therefore, after coordination with the COP Presidency, call for a meeting with relevant players to be convened this evening to help build a consensus for a global deal that produces an ambitious outcome to this conference.”
Clinton said many elements of the agreement sought in Copenhagen have already been approved in other meetings earlier this year. “There have been numerous instances in the past year where parties have agreed to the elements of the agreement that we are seeking – at L’Aquila, the G8, the Major Economies Forum, the bilateral meeting between President Obama and President Hu Jintao in their statement in Beijing. Time and time again leading up to these negotiations, all the parties have committed themselves to pursuing an agreement that met the various standards, including transparency,” she said.
Some environmental groups were hopeful after the U.S. announcement. Jennifer Morgan, directorof the Climate and Energy Program with the U.S.-based World Resources Institute, said, “The world will need further clarification on the specifics of the announcements, particularly whether this money will be additional to current funding, but this is a solid first step. Financing was one of the missing pieces in Copenhagen. This announcement offers a more hopeful story about what can be achieved here.”
But other groups remained pessimistic. Greenpeace faulted Clinton for not providing specifics about the U.S. contribution to the $100 billion fund.
Addressing the plenary session of the conference, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said developed countries must commit to immediate finance for developing countries to make a deal possible. He said climate financing should be in addition to support for the Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all world leaders to slash poverty and support environmental sustainability.
Climate financing should start from January 2010, Brown said. Developing countries should pay $10 billion annually by 2012, rising to $100 billion dollars by 2020. At the same time he called on developing countries to commit to ambitious mitigation actions.
“In these few days in Copenhagen, which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow self-interest to prevent a policy for human survival,” Brown said.
“To the developed world I say also: environmental action is the most powerful engine of job creation in an economy urgently in need of millions of new jobs,” said Brown.
“To the developing world I say: the technology now exists to gain the dividends of a high growth economy without incurring the damage of a high carbon economy. And to all nations I say: It is not enough for us to do the least we can get away with when history asks that we demand the most of ourselves.”
Brown said an agreement should be made legally-binding within six months to a year.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said here Thursday that China hopes the ongoing climate change conference would achieve the best outcome. He will deliver a speech on Friday, the last day of the talks.
“Premier Wen will expound China’s stance on how it deals with climate change in a positive manner and on international cooperation on climate change tomorrow,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu at a news briefing.
China has called for the impact of population to be factored into the final result of the UN climate change conference.
“A solution to climate change is closely related to population management. China’s experiences show that long-term, balanced development can only be achieved through population management and other effective measures,” Zhao Baige, vice minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, told reporters on the sidelines of the UN conference Thursday.
China, the world’s most populous country and the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has slowed down population growth by a family planning policy introduced in the 1970s.
China’s population is projected to peak at slightly less than 1.4 billion in 2026, both earlier and at a lower level than previously projected. India’s population is projected to surpass China’s population in 2025, according to new data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.