Summit to save planet bogged down in diplomatic fighting
The United Nations climate change summit opened in disarray yesterday after violent storms, the late arrival of the host president and a serious rift between some of the world's biggest polluters.
As delegates arrived in Durban in South Africa on Sunday, heavy rain waterlogged parts of the venue and swept away tin shacks in townships on the outskirts of the city, killing eight people.
Many of the estimated 15,000 delegates packed into the main hall for yesterday's opening session, only to be kept waiting for 40 minutes by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.
The 17th Conference of the Parties is the last chance for developed nations to sign up to a second term of the Kyoto Protocol, which specifies legal limits for their carbon dioxide emissions, before it expires at the end of next year.
At the opening of the talks, Christiana Figueres, the UN's chief climate change official, urged all parties to be flexible, and quoted Nelson Mandela, South Africa's former president, in saying: "It always seems impossible until it's done."
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's Minister of International Relations, who is chairing the 12-day meeting between 194 countries, said the world's poorest nations depended on swift action to stave off global warming which affects them most.
But within hours, most of the big players seemed unwilling to negotiate.
The European Union led a positive charge to revive Kyoto, saying it would sign up for a second term. But it stipulated that the world's two biggest polluters, the United States and China, should also agree to legally-binding emissions cuts before 2015.
The US said China signing up to such a deal was a "basic requirement" for its participation, but even then, it offered no guarantees. Meanwhile, China and the G77 group of developing nations said they would insist on developed nations signing a second Kyoto term before agreeing to any global deals themselves.
Canada has already said it will not commit to a second term, while the country's national broadcaster said it would be announced next month that Canada would withdraw from the protocol. (© Daily Telegraph, London)