Danish PM takes reins of climate talks, new Danish text sparks new uproar

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over the presidency of the Copenhagen talks today.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over the presidency of the Copenhagen talks today.

COPENHAGEN–Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over the presidency of the climate talks here today and found himself immediately facing an uproar over yet another ‘Danish text’.

While tempers flared inside, teargas swirled outside. Thousands of demonstrators are pressing against lines of police, crossing canals on rubber rafts, trying to storm the building in their own effort to seize control of the talks. So far police have held them well at bay. By 1:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. true/slant time), 250 had been arrested.

In the plenary session today, a block of developing countries including China, India and Brazil protested the appearance of a new draft agreement penned by Denmark.

“Unfortunately this morning the presidency put forward something from the sky, it’s a parachuted text,” said Chinese negotiator Su Wei. “It’s not simply a matter of procedure. Actually it’s a matter of substance. It’s the respect of the parties from the 192 countries. You cannot just put forward a text from the sky.”

Brazil protested that the new text seemed to replace a draft the parties had been working on into the early morning and demanded that old text be the only one considered. Sudan’s negotiator said, “We are not ready to rubber stamp a text coming out of the blue.”

Rasmussen took over the presidency this morning, replacing Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister for climate and energy, ostensibly because the arrival of more than 120 heads of state requires the conference be moderated by a head of state. He announced that Hedagaard would continue to oversee negotiations as his special representative.

It’s unclear whether the controversial new text came from Rasmussen, Hedagaard, or both. Rasmussen responded to criticism by defending the text as inclusive and pointing out that Denmark had not formally introduced it.

“I want to assure the distinguished gentleman from China that it’s absolutely not our intent to put any text on the table from the sky,” Rasmussen said. “The value of the Danish presidency is transparency. But I also have a responsibility as the president to get things moving. From consulting with leaders from throughout the world, they expect us to get something done. For that reason, we have to get started now.”

The protesting delegates delayed scheduled statements by heads of state by raising points of order about the new text. Rasmussen appealed to them to stop, and when they did, he read a statement designed to rally the parties, which concluded:

“We are indeed one planet, we share the same fate, we are all in this together.”

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