RTÉ Environment Correspondent Paul Cunningham was at the Copenhagen Climate Summit as world leaders gather to discuss a politically binding deal on climate change.


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- LIVE from Copenhagen

19 December - Deal 'noted'

Finally the fudge.

So the UN talks have managed to avoid collapse. A controversial US-backed deal, with very modest goals, has been 'noted', but not endorsed by the conference.

For the EU, the positive result is that the process continues. The reality is that the tough decisions have effectively been postponed until the next global conference next year.

Given the fractious nature of this two-week negotiating process, talks need to get underway almost immediately to ensure that they do not end-up becoming as deeply mired as these Copenhagen negotiations.

The US-backed deal, called the Copenhagen Accords, wasn't endorsed by the plenary of 193 nations - instead the deal, which was heavily criticised by some states, was simply noted.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said the Accords may not be everything everyone had hoped for, but the decision was an important beginning.

However, hard decisions on binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, with in a set timeframe, or stating precisely where funds are going to come from for developing states has been delayed until the Mexico summit in November.

Maybe expectations were too high: President Obama was hobbled by the fact that carbon capping legislation is stalled in the US Senate. While China is being blamed by many Europeans for stalling the talks, Beijing has been working very hard on the climate change agenda in recent years.

While EU leaders studiously avoid commenting on it, the organisation of the conference was, at times, disastrous. Thousands of people queued outside the centre in the freezing cold. Then the same happened the next day. Denmark’s negotiating process was also questioned privately – particularly the repeated introduction of draft texts that infuriated developing states.

The Copenhagen summit is being described by some as a modest success, but most will view it as a failure. The question is what happens next.

The German Chancellor is expected to start trying to re-engage with parties in February. There is a mini summit due in Bonn in mid-2010. However the fact is that the problems which bedevilled this Copenhagen Summit, will be waiting all of the participants next November in Mexico.

It’s a long road to any success in Mexico. This summit – called by some as Hopenhagen – has turned out to be a damp squib.

19 December - Diplomatic Mess

So this is what a diplomatic mess looks like.

This summit originally was supposed to conclude a legally binding deal on tackling greenhouse gases; then expectations were lowered to a comprehensive agreement.

Now, a day after is was supposed to conclude, the very watered down proposal, backed by the United States and China, reluctantly by the EU, is being strongly opposed by many developing states.

For any deal to be passed by the conference of the parties, involving more than 190 countries, it’s supposed to have unanimous support. That seems impossible this morning.

The deal makes provision for finance for developing countries facing the impacts of climate change; it suggests the world should not be allowed to heat-up by more than 2 degrees Celsius; and it tackles the issue of verifying emissions reductions in places like China.

However, there are no legally binding targets, or specifics by which the 2 degree limit will be achieved.

When the deal was presented to the plenary session in the very small hours of this morning, Tuvalu said it couldn't accept the deal, because it amounted to ‘30 pieces of silver to sell our country’.

Venezuela was-up next and was caustic in its assessment of both the deal and the manner in which the Danish presidency had handled the conference. The delegate said the conference: ‘never gave a mandate to a small group of 25 countries to draw up such a document’,

Irish campaigners were vicious in their assessment of the deal. Colin Roche of Oxfam Ireland: ‘The deal is a triumph of spin over substance.’

Molly Walsh of Friends of the Earth Ireland said: ‘This is supposed to be the United Nations? What's happened here is a deal agreed by a small number of countries in a closed room in an untransparent process.’

Niamh Garvey of Trocaire said: ‘This text is a total disaster for the world's poorest countries. It condemns millions of people to the devastating consequences of climate change.

In short, the Copenhagen conference has turned out to be a diplomatic mess. And it’s still unclear what happens next. After this issue has been dealt with, the conference still has a mountain of other issues to tackle.

But in the end, no matter how many delegates detest the deal, no matter how much campaigners feel let down - this process will continue. Another climate change summit is due next November in Mexico. If it’s not to turn as big a mess as this one – a monumental amount of work needs to be done.

18 December - Back down to earth

Yesterday we were up. Today it's back down to earth with a bang. The UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen has switched to confusion after yesterday's optimism about that a deal would be concluded. The outcome is uncertain once again.

After a state banquet last night, 26 influential leaders worked until half 2.30 in the morning preparing yet another draft text.

The Danish PM described the talks positively: 'We had a very fruitful, constructive dialogue'. Things were looking up. The much sought after momentum had arrived.

Then the overnight text was shown to other parties and things turned sour. The developing nations had already fought a long and fractious battle with the Danish Presidency of the talks over refined and slimmed down texts.

While they were removed yesterday, the developing nations feel that – once again - a deal is being agreed without them. They say this will not be allowed to stand. So now everything is up in the air.

Then again, these summits often swing between positive and negative. The fact is that 130 world leaders are here and the opportunity of concluding a deal is still very possible.

However, there's going to be some hard negotiations over the coming hours.

17 December - Change of mood

Virtually every important political decision-maker on the planet is now in the same city at the same time – Copenhagen.

Yesterday the mood was atrocious: vicious running battles on the streets coupled with ugly recrimination inside the summit. Developing nations attacked the EU for dishonesty. The EU said it was sick of US tactics. The US said it wouldn’t play ball, unless China and India verified any cuts in their emissions. Deadlock.

Today the mood changed decisively, but it’s unclear if there’s enough time to secure a comprehensive deal.

The first positive signal came from US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she spoke for the first time about American support for a $100bn aid package for developing countries.

Securing finance to help limit the damage of climate change is a biggie.

The second change came when the Danish Prime Minister announced that his country was withdrawing slimmed-down compromise texts.

These had been a major bone of contention for developing countries who feared it was a means of killing the Kyoto Protocol.

A major roadblock disappeared.

The next indication of what’s happening will come from the EU. They’re going to have a coordination meeting this evening.

However Ireland’s Environment Minister John Gormley has said the summit mood is much improved. He should know as he’s involved in a conference working group on finance.

The situation is now in flux. Press conferences by the US, China and the G77 – group of developing countries – all have been cancelled. The backrooms must be busy.

Over the past 24 hours, meetings between the major groupings here have been arranged but then cancelled. Now it’s understood that things are happening. But will it be enough?

Well if anyone can do it, it has to be the 130 world leaders who’ve arrived in Copenhagen tonight. US President Obama is due to arrive tomorrow morning. Failure is still an option.

However it’s no longer as guaranteed an outcome as things were yesterday.

A few more rattles not doubt will be thrown out of the proverbial prams, but things are moving in Copenhagen. Finally.

17 December - Deadlock

Show time! It’s now estimated 130 world leaders are on their way to the Copenhagen climate change summit. Many have already arrived. Leadership is certainly needed as the talks process is still deadlocked.

On the downside, developed and developing countries are still at loggerheads over the question of reducing emissions. Rich countries want to contain emissions to a level associated with a temperature rise of no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

However developing nations – often the ones struggling with climate change impacts – want emissions contained to a level associated with a temperature rise 1.5C.

US President Barack Obama will only arrive on Friday, however Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived last night. Several world leaders will address the conference today including Australia’s Kevin Rudd and Germany’s Angela Merkel. However it will be in the backroom that any deal will be struck

Optimists point to new cash offers which came through last night. Japan has promised $15 billion dollars in aid, over three years, if a deal is done. EU leaders had already promised over $10 billion last week.

However the amount of work which needs to be done to conclude a deal is very large.

And the Danish negotiators have been unsuccessful in their bid to secure agreement on a negotiating process. Developing nations suspect they effectively want to kill-off the Kyoto Protocol – something they will resist as it’s the only legally binding deal of emissions reductions.

Yesterday, EU Ministers sounded the alarm bell that the entire process was slipping towards failure. E

Environment Minister John Gormley said the hurdles ahead were ‘insurmountable’. Was it an accurate assessment or just EU Ministers trying to apply pressure to China and developing counties?

Certainly there was no question over the EU view of the United States: Mr Gormley said he was ‘sick’ of their tactics.

Maybe with world leaders arriving, the deal was never going to fall into place until tomorrow.

Certainly delegations have been demanding brackets are placed around draft agreements with wild abandon – indicating that the sentence, word or figure is in dispute.

Will most disappear when key compromises are made?

We’re about to find out.

16 December - Bella Centre clashes

Tear gas and truncheons outside, protests and resignations inside – it's been an awful day in Copenhagen for the climate change summit.

The protest arrived at the Bella Centre around 11am after a march from the city. Police were going to allow it travel past the perimeter fence. The protestors had other ideas. They stopped to face the police at a path leading to the convention centre front door. For a while there was a stand-off, but then protestors surged forward and a mini riot ensued.

Police in full riot gear pushed back the crowd. Men who danced on top of police vans were flung off or beaten. Or both. The protestors sang: 'We’re not violent. Why are you?'

By this time, the protestors had brought an open topped truck and they tried to use it as a means of staying in the location.

Some people were onboard. Others surrounded it like a human shield.

The police warned everyone to leave the area or face arrest.

Fully-clad in riot gear, they took over the van – first throwing protestors off the back, and then arresting people who were surrounding it holding hands.

Many were hit – usually on the arms.

Gas enveloped the area as the protestors were flushed out and pushed down the street. It seems around 200 people were arrested.

Inside, it’s also fractious. Friends of the Earth members are holding a sit down protest in the lobby after being refused entry.

A plenary session of environment ministers was interrupted. The conference centre was sealed off for a period of time. It’s a move which caused further congestion.

And what of the talks? Well, the President of the process, the Danish climate change minister is gone – replaced by the Danish Prime Minister.

Environment Ministers have been told they’re going to be negotiating all night – but no breakthrough has been forthcoming.

The so-called Hopenhagen summit could do with a boost.

15 November - Slow progress

Too slow: That’s the verdict of the UN’s chief negotiator on the pace of the Copenhagen summit.

Speed is important because around 120 world leaders are due to arrive on Thursday to conclude a deal. And they expect technical and financial issues to be sorted.

UNFCCC Exec Secretary Yvo de Boer warned: 'There is still an enormous amount of work and ground to be covered if this conference is to deliver what people expect it to deliver.'

It’s all making people a little edgy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that she was 'a bit nervous' about the lack of progress.

One indication as to how things are shaping up will come later tonight, when two working groups, set-up two years ago at the UN summit in Bali, report back to the government delegations.

No-one is quite sure what the reports will contain. However all believe they’re significant when it comes to determining what’s in a final deal.

Environment Ministers have been warned that they should get a good night’s sleep tonight.

The expectation is that Ministers will start discussions on Wednesday and will not stop until an acceptable text is hammered out which can be presented to world leaders on Thursday. Taoiseach Brian Cowen will arrive on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, campaign groups or NGOs are getting increasingly upset that they’re being excluded from the talks. Their number will be restricted on Thursday and cut still further on Friday – the day the deal is supposed to be done.

That's not the only thing that irks them. Despite a UN apology, there’s real anger that so many people were forced to spend hours queuing for accreditation.

In many cases, they spent a day in line and never gained entry.

NUI Maynooth Professor John Sweeney was one such unlucky person. An editor with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he spent 18 hours in line, in temperatures averaging around zero, over the course of two days.

He finally got in at 6pm tonight but still mustered a smile. Maybe that was just because he had the opportunity of having a hot cup of coffee, and the chance of dethaw.

15 November - The Conference

The United Nations has just apologised for the long delays getting into the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

An apology is certainly required. The scenes outside the Bella Centre are extraordinary, with thousands of people trying to gain admission.

In a statement, the UN said over 45,000 people have applied to attend the conference, three times more than its capacity.

Yesterday people queued for up to eight hours and still didn't gain admission.

Today the scenes are being replicated. The UN says that it's in contact with Danish police to help speed identification of those already accredited online.

There were few signs of progress being made this morning.

I managed to get access to the accreditation desk after nearly three hours outside.

Had I not arrived at 7am it's likely I'd be outside for many hours more. Anyhow - now I can get down to what I came to do - report on the conference.

15 November - The Queue

It's the thing you don't want to happen - all dressed up and nowhere to go. Yesterday a scientist told me he queued at the Bella Centre from 8am and never got admitted, such was the large number of people trying to gain entry.

Morning Ireland: Impasse at climate talks

This morning I was in line by seven - the queue was already 100m long. Two hours on, I have not made it to the top. With Paul Melia of the Irish Independent

Once insde the door, and out of the cold, there is no doubt another queue. Why? Well the Bella Centre has a capacity of 15,000. But thousands more want to join the party.

Organisers now plan to restrict the number of non-governmental organisations getting in. It all adds up to a rather unpleasant atmosphere. The mood inside is not much better apparently.

Hopefully I will get the chance to find out shortly.

14 December - Norway

My journey to the UN’s climate change summit in Copenhagen actually started in Norway. That’s because it’s home to a technology which claims to be one of the most important emissions reduction opportunities in the world.

It’s called Carbon Capture and Storage: capturing Co2 from power plants, before it disappears up a chimney and into the atmosphere.

Once captured, the CO2 is treated to transform it from a gas into a liquid, then stored underground – sometimes in empty gas fields. Norway has been a pioneer of CCS and its latest facility is based at Mongstad, about an hour north of beautiful Bergen.

Virtually all of Norway’s electricity is generated by hydropower. However the country is also a major exporter of North Sea oil and gas. A lot of that oil is refined at Mongstad into petrol, diesel and aviation fuel.

This port, which only became an industrial base in the mid-1970s, is now also home to research into CCS. What’s called the European CO2 Technology Centre is currently under construction, which involves the Norwegian Government, StatoilHydro and Shell.

The Mongstad plant is currently focused just on carbon capture. It plans to test two technologies, so that it would be suitable for both gas-fired power stations and also coal fired. One technology, known as amine, has been around for a long time but the second, chilled ammonia, is new.

The aim is to test them, reduce financial and environmental costs and then promote them for national and international use.

That’s still some time away. The construction of the administration building is nearing completion but the rest of the site is very much a building site. Yet there is a clear optimism among the workforce that this technology will succeed.

For some environmentalists, CCS is not a welcome technology. They fear it simply allows nations to continue to emit Co2, rather than focus on cleaner renewable sources of energy.

There’s also concern that some of the Co2 will eventually re-emerge with consequences which they say could be devastating. For the supporters of CCS, it’s needed because renewable energies simply can’t supply enough power in the short-term.

With renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives, they argue CCS should be seen as the third leg of the stool – something which is going to be needed given the ever-expanding global population.

Preliminary research in Ireland has already identified the coal-fired power station of Moneypoint, as being one possible site for CCS. When it comes to storing the Co2, the Kinsale gas field is under consideration.

The Mongstand Technology Centre should be completed within a little more than a year, with testing getting underway in 2011. All of Ireland’s electricity generators are watching what’s going to happen.

My view? This technology is going to become more common. It’s already in use in Norway, the United States and Algeria. South Africa is tracking it closely. CCS is on the way – whether environmentalists think it’s a polluters free-pass or skeptics think Co2 does not damage at all.

But now I’ve arrived into Copenhagen for the conference proper. Today saw Environment Ministers get involved in the talks process, as the summit goes ‘high-level’.

However it also saw African nations walk-out for a period. It’s going to be a difficult number of days. The hothouse is about to get hotter, as it’s reported now that around 120 world leaders are going to descend on the Danish capital on Thursday.

You can expect more fights, more walk-outs and more drama. My gut is still that too many leaders are coming to Copenhagen to walk away with nothing but egg on their face.

Yet my first battle will be to get accreditation. A political advisor told me that it was taking around a half a day to secure the much-sought after UN document, which allows access to the Bella Centre.

Apparently the delay is due to a shortage of cameras for ID cards.

Tomorrow morning I’ll find out.

Paul Cunningham outlines what is at stake at the climate summit in the Danish capital

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Charlie Bird examines the US contribution to global emissions and the need for change

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Anne-Marie Green reports from India on dwindling water supplies and a ballooning population

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Anne-Marie Green explains the effect of climate change on Indian agriculture

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Niall Martin visits the mountains of Uganda, where the snow is retreating due to a warming climate

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