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Copenhagen summit veering towards farce, warns Ed Miliband

Climate talks at least 18 hours behind schedule as world leaders set to arrive in Copenhagen

Live blog: All the action from the last day of the summit

Ed Miliband gestures during a press briefing at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen

Ed Miliband gestures during a press briefing at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Photograph: Anja Niedringhaus/AP

The climate change summit in Copenhagen was in jeopardy tonight with the complex negotiations falling far behind schedule as the climate secretary, Ed Miliband, warned of a "farce".

With just two days remaining, the inability to overcome disagreements about the shape of a deal to combat global warming led to hours of inaction today , while outside the negotiations police clashed with protesters who broke through a security cordon but failed in an attempt to storm the conference centre.

"We have made no progress" said a source close to the talks. "What people don't realise is that we are now not really ready for the leaders. These talks are now 18 hours late."

John Vidal: 'Countries are making tiny concessions' Link to this audio

More than 115 world leaders arrive tomorrow and on Friday and had expected only to bargain over the final details in a prepared draft agreement but the earlier impasse could condemn the talks to failure.

For the first time frustrated negotiators spoke openly of – at best – reaching a weak political agreement that would leave no clear way forward to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions.

That would mean the negotiations staying in limbo well into next year, increasing the damage caused by global warming.

The day saw thousands of protesters take to the streets to demand a strong deal by Friday but, while they clashed with police, they failed in their objective to enter the conference centre.

A key meeting of 25 government ministers from different countries, chosen to streamline the negotiations, was 18 hours behind track tonight , having failed to meet for the entire day. The group, along with another 25 "shadow" ministers, had been scheduled for its first meeting in the early hours of Wednesday but it was delayed. Ministers from developing countries were shocked to find that, instead of making progress on producing the slimmed-down draft agreement for the leaders, talks starting at 5.45am had seen the document increase in complexity.

Miliband said people around the world would be rightly furious if negotiators failed to get a deal because the talks were delayed not over substance, but over the process. "It 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," he said.

"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."

There was, however, some progress on other important issues. The US and China appeared to resolve some of their differences and a proposal from the Ethiopian prime minister on climate funding closed the gap between rich and poor countries. At the heart of the impasse is the fate of the Kyoto protocol, signed in 1997. It is the only legally binding agreement on climate change and requires industrialised nations – but not developing nations – to cut their emissions. Rich nations want a fresh treaty, arguing the world has changed and the major emerging economies such and China and India must commit to curbing their huge and fast growing national emissions. But the developing nations argue that rich nations grew wealthy by polluting the atmosphere and must take primary responsibility for it, which can only be guaranteed by Kyoto.

China, India, South Africa and Brazil brought one half of the talks to a halt in expectation that the Danish presidency was going to introduce a new text which would effectively kill Kyoto. "Things are getting held up by procedural wrangling," said Miliband. "People can kill this agreement with process arguments. It will be tragedy if we cannot reach an agreement on substance, but it will be a farce if we cannot agree on process."

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Copenhagen summit veering towards farce, warns Ed Miliband

This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 23.33 GMT on Wednesday 16 December 2009. A version appeared on p1 of the Top stories section of the Guardian on Thursday 17 December 2009. It was last modified at 11.06 GMT on Friday 18 December 2009.

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  • Camleeds Camleeds

    16 Dec 2009, 11:46PM

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  • Camleeds Camleeds

    17 Dec 2009, 12:02AM

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  • RaptorJesus RaptorJesus

    17 Dec 2009, 12:03AM

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  • peopleperson peopleperson

    17 Dec 2009, 12:06AM

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  • BurlingtonBertie BurlingtonBertie

    17 Dec 2009, 12:10AM

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  • 1DC2 1DC2

    17 Dec 2009, 12:14AM

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  • SamStone SamStone

    17 Dec 2009, 12:30AM

    I years to come when people millions of people are being displaced from their homes, species are becoming extinct and the biggest catastrophe in human history is fully upon us, people are going to look back at this event in Copenhagen and say - "just how f**king thick were they?"

  • dandydon dandydon

    17 Dec 2009, 12:37AM

    It's looking more and more like humanity's farewell gig. Tasteless, violent and ruled by money. Fitting really.

    But there is a glimmer of hope, a genius arrives Friday. Eddie Izzard is playing nearby Malmo. If it's all going to end soon, I want to go laughing. Eddie for World President!

  • boodakahn boodakahn

    17 Dec 2009, 12:42AM

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  • boodakahn boodakahn

    17 Dec 2009, 12:43AM

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  • leedelta leedelta

    17 Dec 2009, 12:48AM

    Ministers from developing countries were shocked to find that, instead of making progress on producing the slimmed-down draft agreement for the leaders, talks starting at 5.45am had seen the document increase in complexity.

    I read somewhere that in fact the US, UK, France and the Ethiopian premier had attempted to stitch the process up by substituting a completely different 'text', combined with a pre-planned change of chair, and that was what kept talks stalled for hours?

  • jamesc23 jamesc23

    17 Dec 2009, 12:48AM

    192 countries and only two that really matter. Obama, as Jonathan Freedland pointed out yesterday, has his hands tied by the US Senate. So the onus falls on Premier Wen Jiabao. Is this the moment when China truly stands up?

  • BigWhiteRabbit BigWhiteRabbit

    17 Dec 2009, 12:50AM

    @Camleeds

    "Hole in the ozone layer"

    Ozone depletion is very real, as is the "hole in the ozone layer" that forms over Antarctica. According to NAS, the recent (since about 1975) ozone levels in that area have dropped to as low as 33% of their pre-1975 values. When the polar stratospheric vortex breaks up around this time of year, ozone levels above areas of South America and New Zealand fall by up to 10%.

    "Everyone at risk from AIDS (1980s)"

    Last year approximately 2 million people died of AIDS and approximately 2.7 million people became infected with HIV. Over 30 million people are currently infected. And over 2 million children are currently infected.

    "The forthcoming ice age (1970s)."

    The "forthcoming ice age" allegedly "predicted in the 1970s" is a myth. A survey of the scientific literature has found that between 1965 and 1979, 44 scientific papers predicted warming, 20 were neutral and just 7 predicted cooling. So while predictions of cooling got more media attention, the majority of scientists were predicting warming even then, and the contemporary cooling trend observed was the result of aerosol pollution.

    "Bird/avian flu"
    "Swine flu"

    Perhaps you are denying that these viruses exist. I had what was suspected to be H1N1 in August: it was unpleasant as one would expect from influenza, was treated with fluids and paracetamol, passed relatively quickly, and was in every way exactly as predicted. Strains of avian flu are also observed. I would prefer not to experience them directly.

    "Bird/avian flu to mutate to a version which will spread to humans"

    This is how every strain of flu virus spreads through the human population through reassortment and antigen drift, replacing previous strains. This happens seasonally, and new subtypes emerge with some regularity. For instance, in 1968 the Hong Kong pandemic flu arose in pigs coinfected with avian and human strains. Flu is not something we should take lightly, the Spanish flu - with which my grandmother was infected - killed between 50 and 100 million people.

    And so on. Skepticism is a good thing; refusing to believe anything at all is taking skepticism too far.

  • slumpy slumpy

    17 Dec 2009, 12:52AM

    Moved to a town in the peak district in 1990. First winter 2 feet of snow lasting 4 weeks due to freezing temperatures. Town cut off (regularly) due to every road into town was higher than the town. Since then? If we're lucky 2-3 cm lasting a day.
    Whether climate change is man aided or not., and I think it is, my admittedly anecdotal evidence seems to bear it out.

  • Glovidge Glovidge

    17 Dec 2009, 12:56AM

    La la la... climate change may be prove to be a steaming pile of b/s (I don't think so but each to their own) but why steps can't be taken to protect our natural habitats is just beyond my comprehension, regardless of what some bloke in that great school of learning in East Anglia may or may not have said?

  • Monkeybiz Monkeybiz

    17 Dec 2009, 1:00AM

    @Camleeds

    Big scares which never happened:

    The forthcoming ice age (1970s). Er, false, no one predicted this - except a few of your buddies.

    Everyone at risk from Aids (1980s). Currently 38 million people LWA, 2 million dead in 2008 alone. Not exactly small fry - give it time my boy.
    New Variant CJD (1990s). By now, 1/3 of the population should be infected. Good preventive measures forestalled this.
    Bird/avian flu. Pretty brutal for the poultry farmers, and poultry.
    Bird/avian flu to mutate to a version which will spread to humans. It hasn't happened, yet. But give it time.
    Hole in the ozone layer. We saw it and stopped what was causing it, one thing we could fix.
    Millenium Bug. haha, yes, wasn't that a good one.? Took us ages to think that one up.
    Swine flu. 1,300 deaths so far, not a large number, but, as with H5N1. Again, it ain't over yet, and this virus has taken 100 years to get to this point. Take the long view will you?
    Man Made Climate Change. Well, time will show who was right. I know what my money is on.

  • Jakesteed Jakesteed

    17 Dec 2009, 1:05AM

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  • Sigurdur1 Sigurdur1

    17 Dec 2009, 1:11AM

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  • SIRNEWTON SIRNEWTON

    17 Dec 2009, 1:24AM

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  • MilesSmiles MilesSmiles

    17 Dec 2009, 1:29AM

    If these politicians can't do it, then they need to be removed by force and replaced with people who will.

    Surprisingly, Brown has looked among the least idiotic at this conference.

  • StanM1 StanM1

    17 Dec 2009, 1:37AM

    This thing was a farce before it started. Didn't these moble organ banks get the word that their cover is blown? By now everybody thats paying any attention at all knows that the data that this crap is based on is phony.

    Now its just about money and power. As everyone with a functioning brain has been saying all along.

  • billofrights billofrights

    17 Dec 2009, 1:40AM

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  • avanderl avanderl

    17 Dec 2009, 1:59AM

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  • InflationHedge InflationHedge

    17 Dec 2009, 2:13AM

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  • JulianusRex JulianusRex

    17 Dec 2009, 2:17AM

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  • OzCook OzCook

    17 Dec 2009, 2:24AM

    Agenda:
    1. Show The Day the Earth Stood Still to all the delegates.
    2. Send the politicians home.
    3. Invite scientists from all the world's countries to make the decisions.

    Thoughts:
    Politicians will never agree. They all want to be top dog.
    If AGW is real we are doomed in any case.
    If it isn't real we will only find out when scientists' projects don't need the authorisation of politicians.
    This gives a circular argument from which there is no escape without a few chastening words from Klaatu.
    Klaatu, where are you?

  • kehty kehty

    17 Dec 2009, 2:33AM

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  • lvtaxman lvtaxman

    17 Dec 2009, 2:35AM

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  • OzCook OzCook

    17 Dec 2009, 2:36AM

    Another thing: why are there 150 countries represented?
    Communication links follow the formula:
    x(x + 1) where x is the number of participants.
    Thus for three people: 3(3 + 1) = 12.
    For the Copenhagen Hot Air Junket's 150:
    150(150 + 1) = 22,650.
    Unless you have one strong leader or perhaps a triumvirate of China, India and USA to manage the conference and dictate the terms nothing will be resolved.
    None of the other countries really counts. They are invited along so that they don't lose face.
    Gaia (the Earth) will solve this and we will have to swallow it. Billions may die but then we have made a good deal of progress so we should be able to pick up the traces in 100 years time.

    An unpalatable truth: there are too many people on the earth and it is getting worse. Overpopulation is the elephant in the room.

  • NikkiB2009 NikkiB2009

    17 Dec 2009, 2:36AM

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  • AntonyIndia AntonyIndia

    17 Dec 2009, 2:43AM

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  • lvtaxman lvtaxman

    17 Dec 2009, 2:44AM

    One more point - let the capitalists into the "developing world" and not give a dime to the despot rulers. The money will never get to the proper places.

    I think putting resources into clean water, eliminating malaria and other diseases, getting land productive for food production, and caring for the people in the developing countries is a much better use of money than worrying about "carbon footprints" in Europe and North America.

  • fabiusmaximus fabiusmaximus

    17 Dec 2009, 2:45AM

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  • OzCook OzCook

    17 Dec 2009, 2:48AM

    The original The Day the Earth Stood Still by the way. The one starring Michael Rennie, not the Keanu Reeves travesty.

    Kehty. Lovely thoughts and I'm with you 100% but the rest of the world is selfish and greedy. If we lift the living standards of the developing nations then they'll want to eat more meat. Cows and sheep emit greenhouse gases. Yes, there are ways to stop them farting so much. It is a hugely complex problem, if there is a problem. It's allowing George Monbiot to make a quid and 150 politicians and their retinues to enjoy a holiday in Denmark.

  • HalGroar HalGroar

    17 Dec 2009, 2:54AM

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  • mdewlyva mdewlyva

    17 Dec 2009, 3:06AM

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  • NikkiB2009 NikkiB2009

    17 Dec 2009, 3:07AM

    Some more amazing stuff, extremely revealing for what people are at the Copenhagen conference:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/putting_our_economy_in_the_hands_of_chavez_fans

    Not to mention applauding, but why would anyone even listen???

    Tin hat dictator! Keep making fun of our president, and we, the American People, will keep pushing for Obama to get medieval on your ass!

  • lvtaxman lvtaxman

    17 Dec 2009, 3:07AM

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  • britononthemitten britononthemitten

    17 Dec 2009, 3:23AM

    Hopefully it will end in a complete farce with nothing agreed at all. If we're really lucky we might get a massive snow fall that strands all the private jets and Air Force One at Copenhagen for a week for good measure.

    Seriously; we need it to be so farcical and so embarrassing that no one ever tries to organize anything like it ever again.

  • solsburyhill solsburyhill

    17 Dec 2009, 3:26AM

    Miliband et NuLabor screw up at home and then expect the world to follow them.

    Give me a break. As far as I can see Britain politicians squawk and do no good.

    Would anybody trust Brown, and Miliband, and Harman... et al. No! (Neither do I trust Cameron, and Goldsmith). That leaves us at an impasse.

    Britain's carbon footprint is a disgrace.

    Let's clean up our own house and then pontificate. Or is this 'business as usual'?

    I am convinced that man's actions causing (accelerated) global warming. But I am also aware that the British political class are using the issue to distract us from their pathetic failure at home.

    The situation is starting to appear too ridiculous for words. It rather reminds me of the Neocon agenda as practiced by NuLabour:
    http://www.brainwavingtv.com/2009/the-power-of-nightmares/

    We are drowning in political hypocrisy.

  • Swashblogger Swashblogger

    17 Dec 2009, 3:28AM

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  • mdewlyva mdewlyva

    17 Dec 2009, 3:29AM

    OzCook, the overpopulation bit is a rehash from the 70s. The truth is that most western countries and many Asian countries aren't even REPLACING population, much less growing. 79 nations, containing 44% of earths population, are reproducing at below replacement rates.

    Further, humanity doesn't take up that much space. 97% of the earth is human-free. Every human on earth could fit comfortably in the U.S. state of Texas.

    And our population is rapidly graying. By 2050, global population is expected to peak. And then begin falling sharply as the older generations die off and younger generations fail to have enough children to replace them. Population exlposion? More like an implosion.

  • JohnFromJackson JohnFromJackson

    17 Dec 2009, 3:40AM

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  • harbinger harbinger

    17 Dec 2009, 3:48AM

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  • kmne68 kmne68

    17 Dec 2009, 3:54AM

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