- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

COPENHAGEN | Delegates converged Sunday for the grand climax of two years of tough, sometimes bitter negotiations on a climate-change treaty, as U.N. officials calculated that pledges offered in the last few weeks to reduce greenhouse gases put the world within reach of keeping global warming under control.

Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate official, said on the eve of the 192-nation conference that despite unprecedented unity and concessions, industrial countries and emerging nations need to dig deeper.

Finance - billions of dollars immediately and hundreds of billions of dollars annually within a decade - was emerging as the key to unblocking an agreement that would bind the global community to a sweeping plan to combat climate change.

“Time is up,” said Mr. de Boer.

“Over the next two weeks, governments have to deliver” with larger emission-reduction commitments and specific financial pledges for poor countries to help them adapt to changing climate and to shift to low-carbon economic expansion, Mr. de Boer told reporters in advance of Monday’s opening.

South Africa on Sunday became the latest country to announce an emissions target. It said that over the next 10 years it would reduce emissions by 34 percent from “business as usual,” the level it would reach under ordinary circumstances. By 2025, that figure would peak at 42 percent, then effectively level off and thereafter begin to decline.

“This makes South Africa one of the stars of the negotiations,” said the environmental group Greenpeace.

President Obama’s decision to attend the conclusion of the two-week conference, coming after phone consultations with other heads of state, was taken as a signal that an agreement was getting closer. He originally planned to make a five-hour stop in the Danish capital this week.

More than 100 leaders have said they will attend the last day or two, making Copenhagen the largest and most important summit on climate ever held.

Mr. de Boer conceded that hacked e-mails from climate scientists had damaged the image of global-warming research, but he said evidence of a warming Earth is solid.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said the e-mails pilfered from a British university fueled skepticism among those who think the science is manipulated to exaggerate global warming.

“I think a lot of people are skeptical about this issue in any case,” Mr. de Boer said. “And then when they have the feeling … that scientists are manipulating information in a certain direction, then of course it causes concern in a number of people to say, ‘You see, I told you so, this is not a real issue.’ ”

E-mails stolen - or perhaps leaked by an inside whistleblower - from the climate unit at the University of East Anglia appeared to show some of the world’s leading scientists discussing ways to shield data from public scrutiny and suppress others’ work. Those who deny the influence of man-made climate change have seized on the correspondence to argue that scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence.

Mr. de Boer defended the rigorous review process by some 2,500 scientists involved in climate-change research as solid and thorough. “I think this is about the most credible piece of science that there is out there,” he said.

A study released by the U.N. Environment Program on Sunday indicated that pledges by industrial countries and major emerging nations fall just short of the reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that mainstream scientists have called for - and the gap is narrower than previously thought.

“For those who claim a deal in Copenhagen is impossible, they are simply wrong,” said UNEP director Achim Steiner, releasing the report compiled by British economist Lord Nicholas Stern and the Grantham Research Institute.

The UNEP report included pledges from China and other rapidly developing countries, pledges that in turn were contingent on rich-country funding to help.

UNEP said all countries together should emit no more than 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 to avoid the worst consequences of a warming world.

Negotiations on a new climate treaty began in earnest two years ago with the aim of crafting a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which bound industrial countries to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other Earth-warming gases from 1990 levels, but which made no obligations on countries such as India and China. That omission caused much resentment and prompted the United States to reject Kyoto.

Months of deadlock were broken in the last few weeks when China and India announced voluntary targets for lowering the greenhouse-gas component of economic growth. Emissions would continue to climb, but at a lower rate. They said, however, they would not accept legally binding targets that could imply consequences if they fall short.

At the same time, Mr. Obama said he would commit to an emissions cut of 17 percent from 2005, even though those cuts have not yet been approved by Congress.

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