US President Barack Obama joins world leaders in Copenhagen today in a final push to secure a new deal on climate change amid growing optimism that an agreement can be reached.
The deadlocked talks were boosted yesterday by a US announcement that it would back proposals for $100bn (€69.6bn)-a-year of long-term international funding to help developing countries in the fight against global warming.
However, there were suggestions at the UN climate summit in the Danish capital that Mr Obama would today announce an increase in the level of emissions cuts the US could make by 2020, to seal the deal.
For days the talks had been mired in procedural wrangling, preventing negotiators from getting to grips with key issues of emissions cuts, transparency on the actions nations were taking and financial and technological support for the poorest parts of the world to cope with climate change.
However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the conditions for a global climate deal were now in place after breakthroughs at the summit.
Mr Brown said the new finance offer from the US meant the UN summit was “absolutely” more than halfway to securing agreement although talks are expected to continue through the night.
He also confirmed that the next scheduled global warming conference, due to be held in Mexico late next year, could be brought forward to the summer to speed progress towards a legally-binding deal.
Almost 120 leaders are attending the last scheduled day of the Copenhagen talks, which it is hoped will result in a political accord that can be turned into a legal treaty within the next year.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the conditions of the financial package included “all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation”, sending a clear message to the Chinese that the issue of transparency was a potential deal-breaker.
Later in the afternoon the country’s vice minister for foreign affairs, He Yafei, said actions to cut emissions that were not supported with international funding should not be subject to outside monitoring and verification.
But he said targets for curbing emission growth would be legally guaranteed under Chinese domestic law and the government was willing to enhance transparency and international co-operation on reporting action on greenhouse gases – as long as it did not infringe on Chinese sovereignty.
Today the focus will be on whether the US is prepared to commit to a more challenging emissions reduction target than its present 17% by 2020 – equivalent to a 4% cut if measured on the same basis as European pledges.
EU leaders will also decide if they are prepared to up their offer of cutting emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by the end of the next decade to a higher 30%, which they have made conditional on securing sufficiently ambitious pledges by other countries.
The UK’s Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said that part of the challenge of the last 24 hours of talks was to “force people to their real bottom lines, not the bottom lines they had last week”.
In terms of the emissions cuts currently on the table, he warned: “There is a gap still between the politics and the science. We need to push for more emissions reductions.”
A leaked UN document suggests that even the most ambitious pledges currently on the table from countries would lead to temperature rises of 3C, not the aimed-for 2C which would avert the worst ravages of climate change.
Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said the document showed “in stark terms that the climate deal on the table in Copenhagen would put at risk the very viability of our civilisation on Earth”.
“A 3C rise in temperatures means devastation for Africa and the possible collapse of the eco-systems that billions of humans rely on,” he warned.
He also said world leaders had just one day to step up or they would be remembered as “the people who consigned the world to chaos”.