Hopes rise for new climate pact

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Even Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was gloomy on Friday morning, admitting that he feared the UN’s climate conference in Copenhagen would result in a poor agreement or none at all. Hopes rose later in the day, however, after US President Barack Obama flew back to Scandinavia, and Friday night, a “meaningful agreement” was in the works.

Reports were emerging that the US had hammered out an agreement with India, China and South Africa. News bureau NTB reported that Stoltenberg was “positive” about the deal, believing it was better than no deal.

Details were sketchy, and it reportedly won’t stop climate change, but it was said to be “an important step” in the right direction. The tentative agreement reportedly lists various measures to be imposed by each country, and financing for climate measures in developing countries.

Stoltenberg has stayed close to the negotiations, along with Norwegian delegations leaders Hanne Bjurstrøm and Erik Solheim. Stoltenberg has been part of a so-called “super group” of national leaders playing key roles at the UN Climate Change Conference.

He had stayed characteristically optimistic, even after working day and night for the past few days, until the morning of the conference’s last day. Then he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he feared the conference would end either with no agreement or with one that was “considerably weaker” than what he and other world leaders had hoped for. They want agreement on a deal that would limit global warming to 2 degrees, and force massive emissions cuts around the world.

The deal reportedly struck Friday night was likely weaker, but could set the framework for a more comprehensive pact to be agreed next year.

Upon arrival in Copenhagen, Obama headed straight into talks with China’s prime minister. Some observers expected some progress, with neither nation wanting blame for a climate deal falling apart. A new draft of a proposed deal reportedly was already circulating Friday afternoon.

Earlier reports from the conference indicated a growing gap between the rich and poor countries of the world. Many of the rich haven’t been willing to cut their own emissions or pay enough to help others cut theirs. The poor countries need financial assistance to help cope with global warming and do their part.

Last week talks were held among negotiators for the nearly 200 countries participating in Copenhagen. They gave way this week for talks involving most of the world’s top leaders, who started arriving on Monday and exerting what influence they could.

Praise for rain forest preservation

Stoltenberg has been most involved in financing issues and hopes rose when US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced the US’ willingness to contribute USD 100 million to a fund that would help finance measures to halt climate change. Other countries, like Norway, are promising more funds to preserve rain forests, and Stoltenberg won wide praise for Norway’s preservation efforts so far.

Norway already has committed USD 100 million to rain forest preservation in Brazil and promised another USD 150 million once Brazil documents that destruction of rain forests has been reduced.

Norway’s cabinet minister for the environment and foreign aid, Erik Solheim, has nonetheless worried the conference would end with no firm agreement. “We have probably underestimated the difficulties of reaching an agreement,” he told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv .