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13 Dec, 2009 12:18

Copenhagen marches for climate deal

Industrialized nations have criticized a draft global warming pact for not making stronger demands on developing countries to cut emissions at the Copenhagen climate change summit.

Some 110 world leaders will discuss the pledge at the end of next week.

Documents prepared by the conference's leaders call on developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45% of 1990 levels by the year 2020.

While the 192 nations are yet to agree over firm emission targets and financing, a mass rally, that involved tens of thousands people, marched through the Danish capital on Saturday.

Although the rally, urging the world leaders to overcome their differences and strike a pact, was mostly peaceful, police have reportedly detained up to one thousand people.

Focus groups have called the Danish police’s tactics heavy-handed, claiming people were without water or access to a toilet for hours in freezing conditions. Most of those detained have now been released without charge.

Meanwhile, just down the road, 15,000 people are attending the UN meeting on climate change, meant to put a stop to excess and herald the beginning of a better, cleaner world. Some scientists question the need for such an expensive gathering, however.

“What is this ridiculous party going to cost us? This Copenhagen meeting is costing 130 million pounds – that is the GDP of a small African country called Malawi. Wouldn’t have it been better to give those people electricity and water they don’t have rather than having this wonderful party in Copenhagen, which will probably achieve nothing?” said Ian Plimer, Professor of Geology from the University of Adelaide.

Apart from world leaders – only attending the conference in its closing two days – delegates have come in their thousands from all over the globe: NGOs, charities, independent observers, scientists, national representatives, and journalists. With the flights and transport for all those people, the forum as a whole will generate nearly 41,000 tons of CO2, as much as the whole of Switzerland in 2006 – all in the name of creating less CO2 in the future.

A German newspaper has calculated the other excesses of the forum: eight million sheets of paper will be used – the equivalent of 100 trees; 15 tons of potatoes will be eaten during the course of the two weeks; 1200 kilometers of cable have been laid; and up to 80,000 phone calls will be made.

Conference organizers say they have done their best to keep emissions at the forum down. For a supposedly green event, it will be consuming a lot of resources, both financial and environmental.

And there is still a lot of wrangling to be done before a deal is signed – if it ever happens.

Developing nations were furious on Wednesday when a draft agreement was leaked. It is seen by many as sidelining poor countries by handing over climate financing to the World Bank.

In the agreement, developing countries would be required to cut total CO2 emissions, with wealthy countries seemingly allowed to emit more per capita. The UN has defended the document as a work in progress.

The conference is due to run until December 18. The Kyoto Protocol – the existing agreement in place to restrict carbon emissions – expires in 2012, and a new deal is needed to continue efforts after 2012.

Expectations are high the new agreement will be struck during the ongoing talks in Copenhagen. However, some observers point out that the summit will most likely just outline principles and directions for a post-Kyoto agreement.

There was another, less publicized climate conference in Copenhagen this week – one for global warming skeptics. “The world isn't getting warmer, it's going mad,” reads their slogan. A small group of activists has met to discuss what they call “the biggest lie ever told.”

Environmentalist writer Bjorn Lomborg says that, even though he believes in climate change, there is still a need for skeptics to question conventional wisdom.

“Some of the skeptics have very legitimate claims", Lomborg told RT.  "And, quite frankly, if we are going to be spending the biggest sum of money ever spent in human history on fighting climate change, we want to know that we are right. So we should listen to what the climate skeptics have to say, both on the science and on the policy, and we should also recognize the vast number of scientists telling us that global warming is real, it’s manmade and it is an important problem.”