COPENHAGEN — Police battled demonstrators outside the UN climate summit on Wednesday as leaders of developing nations let rip at wealthy counterparts, exposing the huge obstacles facing a deal to tame global warming.
Police with dogs fired tear gas and arrested around 260 marchers in Copenhagen, while inside the Bella Center venue fears swelled that ministerial wrangling could wreck hopes for a deal.
Around 1,500 demonstrators tried to march on the closely guarded complex, where 194 nations are seeking to forge a strategy to head off the dangers from rising oceans, droughts, plagues and storms threatened by soaring temperatures.
Inside the conference centre, a man and a woman stormed on to the main stage after a speech by Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, repeatedly shouting “Climate justice now!” before being taken away by security.
Many delegates applauded and away from the stage, world leaders — arriving for Friday’s grand summit of 120 chiefs — portrayed negotiations in a sombre light.
Friday’s summit hopes to conclude a post-2012 strategy by setting down the outlines of an accord on curbing carbon emissions and craft a mechanism to provide billions of dollars for poorer countries in the firing line of climate change.
Scientists warn that many millions of people face going hungry, losing their homes and access to water within the next decade if nothing is done to stem the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
But nine days of official and informal negotiations have failed to produce a breakthrough on any of the key issues. Copenhagen talks: Update on the positions
In one of the first speeches by a head of state, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez railed against what he called “the imperial dictatorship” of the West and said poorer nations would not take their orders from the rich.
“There’s a group of countries who think they are better than us in the South, in the Third World,” he said before taking a dig at US counterpart Barack Obama for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, usually subject to a European Union travel ban over allegations of human rights abuses, said the West was guilty of hypocrisy.
“Why is the guilty North(ern hemisphere) not showing the same fundamentalist spirit it exhibits in our developing countries on human rights matters on this more menacing threat of climate change?
“Where are its sanctions for eco-offenders? When a country spits on the Kyoto Protocol by seeking to shrink from its diktats, or by simply refusing to accede to it, is it not violating the global rule of law?”
Chinese chief negotiator Su Wei complained the process was “not transparent” and warned of “very grave consequences” if things did not improve. Related article: China opposes ‘carbon tariffs’
With the conference moving towards its climax, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen took over as chairman, replacing Connie Hedegaard who will lead informal talks.
“People around the world are actually expecting something from us,” said Rasmussen, showing frustration at events.
Some of the bitterest wrangling has been between the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, China and the United States, which have declared they would not shift on their emissions pledges, the thorniest problem of all.
Obama has offered to cut US carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark, a figure that aligns with legislation put before Congress.
It amounts to a reduction of around four percent compared with the more widely used reference year of 1990. The European Union has pledged to cut emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2020 and is willing to increase that figure to 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.
“We are still putting on the table the obligation to go to 30 percent already to 2020 if other developed countries would make the same kind of contribution,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Reinfeldt also said he was “not sure” whether a deal can be clinched in Denmark which will limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.
The Copenhagen summit has been mired with organisational problems with the number of people accredited outstripping capacity by around 30,000.
Thousands of activists were forced to leave the venue Wednesday to accommodate VIPs, fuelling anger among those who already feel their voices are not being heard.