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Rich accused of 'holding humanity hostage' - John Vidal

Cancún climate summit: Rich accused of 'holding humanity hostage'

Latin American leaders claim poorest nations imperilled by lack of
action on global warming

   * John Vidal and Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
   * guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 November 2010 19.24 GMT
   * Article history

Egyptians' sun symbol in Wadi Natrun desert Egyptians form a giant sun
in the Wadi Natrun desert to highlight global warming ahead of the
climate talks. Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

In the absence of Barack Obama, David Cameron and most developed
country leaders, a group of Britain's least-welcome heads of state
plans to grab centre-stage at next week's global climate summit and
accuse wealthy countries of a collective lack of ambition.

At the 194-nation summit in Cancún, Mexico, Hugo Chávez, president of
Venezuela, Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, and Bolivia's Evo
Morales, all of whom were accused by Gordon Brown of "holding the
world to ransom" at last year's political debacle at Copenhagen, plan
to charge the rich nations with imperilling the poorest people in the

They will be joined by the presidents of Nicaragua, Costa Rica,
Colombia, Brazil and Guatemala.

The Latin American presidents want to bolster the cause of nearly 100
small island states, and other poor countries on the frontline of
climate change, which say that proposals to hold the global
temperature rise to 2C threaten their existence.

Tonight the first shots were fired in what are likely to be serious
diplomatic clashes at the talks. In an interview with the Guardian,
Bolivia's ambassador to the UN accused rich countries of "holding
humanity hostage" and undermining the UN. "[Their] deliberate attempts
to sideline democracy and justice in the climate debate will be viewed
as reckless and immoral by future generations," he said. "I feel that
Cancún will become a new Copenhagen if there is no shift in the next
few days."

Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, warned
journalists this week that if Cancún failed to move forward there
would be a risk that some key parties would "start to simply lose
interest in the international UN process". She said: "If Cancún
delivers nothing, or not much, then the UN process is in danger."

The UK's energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, who will
lead the British ministerial team and attend the talks during the
second week of the conference, said negotiators needed to "keep the
show on the road". He said he wanted to see progress on deforestation,
financing and encouraging the transfer of cleaner technology to poorer

Huhne said: "If the world fails to stop emissions from continuing to
climb by 2020, the prospects for the people on the planet are pretty
bleak. Success from our point of view means getting closer to the
legally binding deal we want."

The Mexican foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, told the Guardian
that she could not rule out western leaders, including Obama,
attending the talks if the negotiations went well. "I'd say it's a
possibility, for as long as [Obama] doesn't confirm that he is not
coming," she said.Others criticised the lack of concrete action by the
US. Earlier this year the senate put paid to Obama's climate bill.
Greenpeace and other international groups accused the US of
deliberately holding up progress. "We can either let the US stall
global climate action and risk the disintegration of the whole
multilateral system, or create a binding deal that the US will have to
catch up with," said director John Sauven.

"The world would make speedier process without the Americans getting
in the way.", said Asad Rahman of Friends of the Earth International.

Developing countries are bitter about US attempts to impose on them
the weak political deal agreed by some countries last year, said
Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based thinktank
for developing countries.

He said: "Cancún is the acid test to see if rich countries are
serious. Developing countries are pessimistic. They see only more
demands by the US and no new offers of finance. People are sceptical
of the offers already made, which have been shown are often not new

Representatives of the world's 54 poorest countries, mainly from
Africa, expressed deep frustration with the talks. "We want action.
The promises [of aid] are there, and they keep coming, but we don't
see anything on the ground," said Bruno Sekoli, from Lesotho, chair of
the Least Developed Countries Group.

The conference opens with the three leading institutes that calculate
global temperature saying that 2010 is likely to be among the warmest
years recorded. Annual carbon dioxide emissions globally have also hit
record levels. Concentrations of the gases continued to build up in
2009 -- the latest year of observations -- despite the economic
slowdown, said the World meteorological organisation (WMO) and are now
at their highest level since pre-industrial times. In addition, the UK
government's Met office reported that the world warmed more rapidly
than previously thought over the past decade.

Energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne said that Britain's
objective at Cancun was "to reinvigorate the talks. Success means
getting the world to within shouting distance of a deal, keeping the
show on the road and making practical progress on areas like forestry,
finance and reduction commitments," he said.
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