Is something rotten in the state of Denmark? The Guardian broke news on Tuesday afternoon that the Copenhagen climate talks had fallen into "disarray" after text leaked from the Danish host government outlining a far weaker deal than expected. Although it seems like the leak story has been overblown, the episode has sparked serious questions about the Danish government's leadership of these delicate negotiations.
The leaked draft suggests that developed countries would be allowed much higher per capita carbon emissions up to 2050 than an earlier draft agreement permitted. The leaked document also allows only a limited role for United Nations in handling climate financing for poor countries, a move favored by wealthy nations but unpopular with the developing world. The Guardian suggested that the United States and the United Kingdom were parties to the draft as part of an inner circle of nations advising Denmark.
However, the draft is dated Nov. 27, and negotiators insist it is just one of many different texts being circulated among participating countries. Earlier versions containing different goals leaked out in late November.
US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing said in a briefing to NGOs on Tuesday that he had not seen this draft and it should not be viewed as meaningful. Instead, he said, Danish negotiators have been working to fashion a number of draft texts reflecting what various parties might support as the final agreement. "There is no single Danish text," said Pershing. "They are working on a series of texts, because that is their role in the presidency."
"If there was no Danish text, I would be appalled," he added. "Their job is to bring something to the table." Yvo de Boer, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, said, "This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations," he said.
But the text has provoked outrage from some developing nations. The African delegation staged an off-the-cuff protest soon after news of the leaked draft broke, storming into one of the main halls and making loud declarations about the great need for action. And the episode has also raised significant questions about the Danish government's leadership of the summit. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the current prime minister, has already come under fire both domestically and abroad for not taking climate change as seriously as his predecessor. In October, the country's lead negotiator resigned, reportedly over differences with the prime minister. NGOs today attacked Rasmussen for the leaked draft.
"The Rasmussen text is a distraction. His lack of leadership is breeding mistrust at the climate summit," Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International's climate political adviser. "Rasmussen needs to get serious and focus on solving the roadblocks that have been caused by the industrialised countries refusing to agree on deep cuts in emissions, long term finance for the developing world, and a legally binding outcome in Copenhagen."
"The behind the scenes negotiations tactics under the Danish Presidency, have been focusing on pleasing the rich and powerful countries rather than serving the majority of states who are demanding a fair and ambitious solution," said Kim Carstensen, leader of the World Wildlife Fund's global climate initiative in a statement. "The Danish Prime Minister's proposed text is weak and reflects a too elitist, selective and non-transparent approach by the Danish presidency."
Of course, it's early days yet, and there's a rush to make headlines declaring the Copenhagen summit a failure. But this leaked draft certainly won't win rich countries the trust of poorer ones.