Crunch time in Copenhagen: world leaders expected to talk all night

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President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, seen here arriving at Copenhagen airport, chided his fellow world leaders and invited them to meet tonight.

COPENHAGEN–The world’s two biggest polluters, China and the United States, remain in a standoff with one day to go in the climate talks here, with heads of state now negotiating among themselves in talks that may last all night.

Though all 192 participating nations arrived with particular offers and particular demands, they have been eclipsed, at this late hour, by the refusal of both the U.S. and China to move substantially from the positions they brought to the talks two weeks ago.

“Europe should take the leadership because we are frustrated by the behavior of two major players, the two biggest polluters, who are still hiding and not coming out of their positions,” Josef Leinen, representative of the European Parliament, said this evening.

“There is a big gap til this moment. It is rather disappointing what we experienced here in Copenhagen. Lots of time on procedure and no progress on substance. I’m worried now that time is too short…. The danger is we will go forward from Copenhagen with a very weak report, and that would be very disappointing.”

U.S. and China

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today the U.S. would contribute to a massive annual fund–reaching $100 billion in 2020–for developing nations to develop clean energy, but did not specify the amount of the contribution.

Her statement signaled, if nothing else, that the U.S. would begin to discuss seriously the financing demanded by developing nations, including China.

But Clinton only reiterated the emissions cuts the U.S. has already offered–17 percent by 2020, 30 percent by 2030, 83 percent by 2050.

“I haven’t heard anything on the reduction targets, and what we’ve heard from the U.S. is just not enough,” Leinen said.

China, meanwhile, is very interested in clean-energy technology and eager to transform its economy, but it has refused to commit to binding emissions targets or to international oversight.

China surpassed the US as the world’s largest polluter this year, and together the two countries produce more than half of the greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. With neither willing to budge, Europe has, as Leinen suggested, tried to take the lead.

Sarkozy Sarkastic

French president Nicolas Sarkozy was the 77th head of state to address the conference. He used the occasion this afternoon to criticize positions taken against some negotiating points, including innovative financing and international oversight, asking at each point, “Who can dispute” its necessity?

He praised some African positions, but prodded Africa to be more agreeable, saying, “Let me say to my African friends, if we don’t have an agreement, you will be the first to suffer from it.”

He insisted the parties here must not leave Copenhagen having done nothing but articulate their positions: “We’re not here for a symposium on global warming. We’re here to make decisions.”

And he invited the “main leaders” among the 119 heads of state here to meet tonight to work out the differences themselves. “France appeals solemnly to each of the heads of state here present to take responsibility in front of history.”

Up all night

The Brazilian negotiator, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, confirmed this evening that heads of state had begun talking amongst themselves.

“We now have the privilege of having leaders here in Copenhagen, leaders who will help certainly with inputs, but leaders who have the political weight to strike on issues,” he said. “Leaders are here, they are talking amongst themselves and this will certainly help.”

While acknowledging the stalemate and confessing his weariness, Figueiredo sounded more hopeful than his European counterparts: “It’s still very early in the evening. The evening will be long. There’s no doubt about that.”

And so hope retreats to the very highest echelon of power.

“There is hope,” Lienen said, “that the political leaders can give this some light in the proceedings tomorrow morning.”

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