Copenhagen 'may not produce agreement'

The lead United Nations negotiator on greenhouse gas emissions believes that the Copenhagen Summit may not produce a definitive global agreement.

Dr Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that a deal may only stretch to "a set of decisions". These might identify objectives but provide no formal international targets or frameworks.

Such an outcome would disappoint many in science, the private sector and government.

At the earlier UN Secretary General's Summit, all sides had appeared to agree that 'certainty' was needed on many levels to make any climate change programme effective De Boer's comments followed a closed dinner involving world leaders after the summit's formal conclusion.

He did not say that any one country had come out during the dinner as explicitly seeking a delay. However, he did cite the political challenge facing US president Barack Obama.

"I think he is preoccupied with a whole bunch of other issues that he has to get out of the way before he can get to climate change," de Boer told a meeting of the New York Bar Association.

A "set of decisions" would not push climate change off the global agenda and leave the topic dependent on only what individual nations or regions were willing to do. Instead, negotiations would continue, but with only 16 days left when all the national representatives can meet before COP15 opens, time is very tight.

However, an extension may not be the answer. This week's UN summit was called because current talks had been stuck in the doldrums.

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