Climate talks bogged down

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has raised hopes that a deal could be agreed on providing finance for developing countries to fight climate change but the crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen remained mired in bureaucratic wrangling.

After another day of delays and tense negotiations, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband warned that the talks to achieve a new agreement could fail because of disagreements over the process, a scenario which he said would be a "farce".

With time running out before leaders are set to convene in Copenhagen with the aim of approving a new political deal and many issues still to be decided, Brown held a series of talks in a bid to achieve a breakthrough on finance for poor countries - one of the key sticking points.

After meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and others to discuss his proposals, Brown said he thought a deal could be done.

The Prime Minister has supported a package proposed by Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi for $100bn of finance for developing countries, which could be raised through a "Tobin" tax on financial transactions or levies on shipping or aviation.

But in the conference centre high levels of mistrust remained among negotiators who are trying to reach agreement on how the world will cut emissions to avert "dangerous" climate change.

Under the most ambitious scenario for an agreement - which the UK is pushing for - Britain would be committed to 42 per cent cuts in emissions by 2020, much higher than the US pledge of 4 per cent cuts on 1990 levels or the Chinese offer to curb the growth in its greenhouse gases.

But Mr Miliband insisted the EU and UK should go for the highest level of ambition not just for environmental reasons but because it would boost the low carbon economy, provide jobs and ensure business went for green investment.

And he said people around the world would be rightly furious if negotiators failed to get a new deal because the talks round into the ground.

"It will be terrible dereliction of duty not to fail because we couldn't agree on the substance but because we couldn't agree on the process.

"I would be a tragedy if we failed to agree because of the substance. It would be a farce if we failed to reach agreement because of the process.

"People will find it extraordinary that this conference that has been two years in the planning and involves 192 countries, which is such an important thing, such important stakes, is at the moment being stalled on points of order."

Of key issues including emissions cuts and finance yet to be agreed, he said: "These are difficult substantial issues in negotiations and they will always be difficult, but people will be rightly furious if we failed to get an agreement because we argued about whether we had two texts or one or over the chair or points of order.

"That is not what hard-earned taxpayers want us to do."

His comments came after another "frustrating" day of talks, during which the Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen took direct control of the high-level segment of the talks amid efforts to break the deadlock.

But as soon as Lokke Rasmussen took the chair in the negotiations, he was faced with angry delegates from countries including China, Bolivia, India, South Africa and the G77 group of developing nations, who are concerned at attempts by the Danes to combine all the talks into one single agreement.

Developing countries do not want to see the current twin-track process - with negotiations on the next phase of the existing Kyoto protocol taking place alongside discussions of a wider agreement, including action on emissions by the US and China - ditched in favour of a single new text.

Some countries want to keep the Kyoto protocol as it is currently the only deal which commits rich nations to legally-binding emissions, and do not want it abandoned if a non-binding political agreement is reached.

But others see it as dead in the water as it does not include the US or efforts by major developing countries such as China, provisions for large scale finance for poor countries or measures to tackle deforestation.

Lokke Rasmussen took over the presidency for the high level segment of talks, which will be attended by some 115 world leaders, including Mr Brown, US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Also attending the talks in Copenhagen are Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, while other countries have sent environment or energy ministers.

The climate conference will also hear from Saudi Arabia's minister of petroleum and mineral resources.

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