Poor nations at Copenhagen climate summit outraged by leaked memo

Wealthy nations are accused of 'carbon colonialism' as leaked climate draft sparks anger. General McChrystal welcomes the new surge-and-exit strategy in Afghanistan. Fourteen wounded as Malaysian PM visits Thai south. No deal yet on Israel's Shalit according to Palestinian Authority. Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urges unity after bomb attacks.
Rukeyya Khan
9 December 2009

The Copenhagen climate summit has been thrown into disarray after developing countries said the current plans for a deal on global warming condemned millions of people to ‘absolute devastation.’ The row broke out after a draft text of a deal prepared by the Danish government was leaked and published online by The Guardian. The draft agreement has been criticised by campaigners who have argued that it risks alienating poor nations. The proposal has been interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on carbon emissions for developed and developing countries - meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much.

Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the chief negotiator for the G77, a group of 130 developing nations including China, said the leaders of the rich world had a ‘moral obligation’ to cut greenhouse gases. He added that developing countries would not sign an 'inequitable deal' nor 'accept a deal that condemns 80 percent of the world's population to further suffering and injustice.'

The so called 'Danish text' also suggests that the UN's negotiating role should be sidelined in future climate negotiations and that the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol be abandoned. The draft is also understood to call for handing control of climate change finance to the World Bank, an unpopular move.

The openSecurity verdict: Developed countries have been quick to dismiss the significance of the Danish text. They have insisted that the document has no official status and is one among many papers circulated to get feedback and input from countries. However, the proposal is garnering attention in part because Denmark is hosting the climate negotiations, giving it oversight of the final text of a deal.

Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon predicted that the Copenhagen summit on climate change will produce a 'robust agreement' that would include recommendations on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation, financing and technology. But whilst UN officials have played down the importance of the proposal, the fallout from the embarrassing leak of the Danish text has served to fortify existing tensions and mistrust between industrialised nations and the developing world.

The issue of who bears the responsibility for cutting carbon emissions is a serious challenge to the success of the Copenhagen talks. The Danish proposal has been seen as an attempt by rich countries to rob developing countries of their just, applicable and fair share of the atmospheric space. In particular, the document is seen to force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement. It would also not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

Money is another thorny issue. Developing countries say industrialized ones cause climate change and owe poor nations dealing with the consequences money to help prevent disasters and move themselves to a low-fossil fuel economy. The World Bank has estimated that developing countries will need between $75 billion and $100 billion annually for adaptation and mitigation. Analysts do not expect countries to come to an agreement about the final figure. So far only $10 billion in immediate funding is on the table.

Yesterday the UN's weather agency said the planet was suffering its hottest decade on record. Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said that research indicated a year-on-year hike in temperatures, adding that droughts, heat waves and floods along with other extreme events are likely to become more frequent and intense. The revelations came amidst chatter of whether there should be an international treaty at all to curb global warming, and whether it is the result of human activity.

The stakes at Copenhagen are therefore high. Not only has the research on climate change progressed but the public sentiment has also shifted. In many countries, climate change is a pressing issue which bridges the standard political divide. It is now a fixed political agenda item that is unaffected by the doubts and lack of understanding which coloured the ineffectiveness surrounding the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Taliban will lose Afghan war: General McChrystal

Testifying to the US Congress on Tuesday, General Stanley McChrystal saluted President Obama's new surge-and-exit strategy in Afghanistan. The NATO commander believes that the surge in combat forces will reverse the momentum of Taliban fighters within a year, leading to their ultimate defeat. He added that he was confident of success because the Afghan people saw foreign troops as a 'necessary bridge to future security and stability.' In spite of his optimism, McChrystal acknowledged that the mission in Afghanistan is 'undeniably difficult.’ The general said he did not think al-Qaeda could be defeated unless Bin Laden was captured or killed, adding that his survival served to embolden al-Qaeda as a 'franchising organisation across the world.'

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday that Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024, highlighting his government's long-term dependency on the US and NATO in spite of President Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing American troops in 2011.

Fourteen wounded as Malaysian PM visits Thai south

The prime minister of Thailand played host to his Malaysian counterpart in a joint visit to the restive south of the country, where violence in the last two days has left ten people dead. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai leader, and Najib Razak named a 'Friendship Bridge' spanning their shared border and are expected to visit an Islamic school in Thailand's Muslim-majority southern provinces on Wednesday.

The authorities’ extensive security measures to avoid the possibility of any security breaches however have fallen short of avoiding violence in the southern provinces. On Wednesday, five bombs wounded fourteen security forces in south Thailand. The bombs were detonated in Yala province, and in neighbouring Narathiwat, where both leaders were visiting to highlight the government's effort to win hearts and minds. The Thai government has ruled out talks with opposition leaders but said that a long-term political solution was important.

Yesterday, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said that the Thai government has been pursuing the wrong strategy and should seek dialogue with separatist Muslim rebels in the south. The ICG report also said that attempts to solve the problem with economic stimulus measures were futile. Separatist tension in the south has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,700 people over the course of six years.

No deal yet on Israeli captive, says Palestinian Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that there was no deal for now between Israel and Hamas on freeing an Israeli soldier held in Gaza. Abbas’ statement came shortly after talks with Hosni Mubarak, who has been seeking to mediate the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for Israel’s freeing of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinian Authority is continuing to monitor the prisoner exchange deal in which it hopes that ‘heavyweight’ prisoners allied to the PA, such as Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, will be released

Elsewhere, hardline Jewish activists have threatened to make Palestinians 'pay the price' for a settlement freeze in the West Bank. Under American pressure, Netanyahu has announced a ten-month moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank. Jewish residents of Yitzhar warned they would inflict damage to 'Arab property as well as to their bodies' if government inspectors attempted to enforce the freeze. The moratorium announced in November however allows settlers to press on with the building of some 3,000 homes already authorised. Nevertheless, thousands of settlers are expected to demonstrate their anger outside the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, accusations have been levelled against the Israeli government for allowing unrestricted regional expansion to Jewish settlers and systematically choking Palestinian natural growth and expansion. Israel’s partial, temporary freeze on building in the West Bank means that Palestinians and their government are struggling to develop their communities in large areas of the territory that fall under full Israeli jurisdiction.

Iraqi PM urges unity after attacks

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Wednesday for Iraqis to cooperate in defeating those accused of aiming to undermine the country's stability. Al-Maliki urged Iraqis to not let their differences undermine the country’s freedom, democracy and security. His comments come a day after at least 127 people were killed in a series of coordinated bomb blasts across Baghdad. The bombs detonated within minutes near the city's main court house and the public works and finance ministries.

Al-Maliki and other senior officials have blamed the devastation on senior Ba'athists living in exile in Syria and an alliance of Sunni Islamists and militants. The head of Iraq's explosives unit, Major General Jihad al-Jaabiri, told reporters on Wednesday that the explosive material 'could not have been manufactured in Baghdad, it came from abroad.' The implication that Damascus has failed to prevent a subversive campaign to destabilise Iraq is likely to increase tensions between the two neighbours, who have remained at diplomatic loggerheads since a spate of similar bombings in August.

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