BARCELONA, Spain - Time has almost run out to break deadlock on a U.N. climate deal supposed to be struck in Copenhagen next month, the United Nations and Denmark warned negotiators at a final preparatory meeting on Monday.
The clock has almost ticked down to zero, Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told officials from 175 nations at the opening of the November 2-6 talks in Barcelona.
With many nations hit by recession, negotiations on one of the most complex international treaties have stalled since they were launched in 2007. Still, de Boer said he sensed a huge desire for success in Copenhagen on December 7-18.
The Barcelona meeting has to overcome splits about sharing out curbs on greenhouse gases among rich and poor nations and must find ways to raise billions of dollars to help the poor to tackle global warming.
Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard urged delegates to work out clear options for Copenhagen, and dismissed any suggestion that a deal could be delayed for several months.
... The world can wait no longer. I know that striking a deal is not easy now. But do any of you believe it's going to be easier next spring, next year or the year after?
You know it's not going to be any easier, she added.
Hedegaard accepted that not every detail could be solved when Denmark hosted the climate talks next month. But Copenhagen must deliver a coherent and ambitious immediate, short-term and long-term answer to the challenge, she said. Failure is the only thing we can't afford.
De Boer, who has said that a full legally-binding treaty is now impossible for Copenhagen, said that he was still convinced a political deal was possible.
He wants Copenhagen to agree four elements: individual cuts in emissions for rich nations, actions by poor nations to slow their rising emissions, new finance and technology for developing nations and a system to oversee funds.
The European Union put an offer -- with strings attached -- on the table on Friday, saying that developing nations would need about 100 billion euros ($147.4 billion) in total a year by 2020 to help them cope with global warming.
Outside the conference center, protesters lined up hundreds of ringing alarm clocks to show that time was running out to reach a deal meant to slow rising temperatures and floods, heatwaves, wildfires and rising seas.
We call on the delegates to kill rumors about delaying the deal, said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF environmental group's Global Climate Initiative.
He said they had to reach a legally-binding deal in Copenhagen rather than a mere political declaration. After all these months spent in talks we cannot come out and say that all this was just an informal chat, he said.
One big problem is that the U.S. Senate is unlikely to agree legislation to cut U.S. emissions before Copenhagen. Other rich nations will be unwilling to promise deep cuts without certainty that Washington will sign up.
Developing nations such as China and India say that the developed nations must cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 -- arguing they have become rich by burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution.
Offers on the table so far from the rich envisage cuts of about 11 to 15 percent. Developed nations say the poor must also do more by 2020 to slow their rising emissions. China, the United States, Russia and India are the top emitters.