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A t-shirt at the Copenhagen climate conference sends a clear message to Canada. (Photo by Eric Reguly/The Globe and Mail)
A t-shirt at the Copenhagen climate conference sends a clear message to Canada. (Photo by Eric Reguly/The Globe and Mail)

UN climate talks resume after protest Add to ...

African nations agreed to resume U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen on Monday after a half-day suspension, accusing rich countries of trying to kill the existing Kyoto Protocol.

"We're going back," Pa Ousman Jarju from the delegation of Gambia, told Reuters after a meeting of the African group.

The protest held up a session due to start at 1030 GMT, just four days before a summit of 110 leaders aims to agree a U.N. pact to combat global warming that could bring more heat waves, floods and rising sea levels.

He said that the Danish hosts gave assurances that there would be more focus on African nations' demands for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing pact for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Monday's session of the 192-nation meeting was to seek ways to end deadlock on core issues as part of a sweeping new deal meant to limit global warming and rein in extreme weather patterns that scientists see intensifying in coming decades.

Australian Climate Minister Penny Wong accused the African nations of staging a "walkout" and said it was "not the time for procedural games" so close to the end of the Dec. 7-18 meeting of more than 20,000 participants.

African nations accuse rich nations of trying to sideline the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, a treaty obliging almost 40 developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The original outline of talks for Monday "means that we are going to accept the death of the only one legally binding instrument that exists now," said Kamel Djemouai, an Algerian official who heads the African group.

Other African delegates also said the rich wanted to "kill Kyoto".

Developing nations want to extend Kyoto Protocol and work out a separate new deal for developing nations. But most rich nations want to merge the 1997 Kyoto Protocol into a new, single accord with obligations for all to fight global warming.

They favour a single track largely because the United States, the number two greenhouse gas emitter behind China, is outside Kyoto. The fear signing a new Kyoto while Washington slips away with a less strict regime with developing nations.

The United Nations said many nations backed the African view. "The vast majority of countries here want to see the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol," said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

Danish Minister Connie Hedegaard, presiding at the meeting, plans to appoint environment ministers to try to break deadlock in key areas, such as the depth of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations by 2020, and cash to help the poor.

"If we carry on at this pace, we're not going to get an agreement," British Energy and Climate Minister Ed Miliband told the BBC.

Separately, a U.N. report said the world this year suffered the fewest number of natural disasters in a decade, but floods, droughts and other extreme weather continued to account for most of the deaths and economic losses.

There were 245 natural disasters recorded this year, down from the decade high of 434 in 2005, said the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Another report projected that climate change will turn the oceans 150 per cent more acidic by 2050, threatening coral reefs that are refuges and feeding grounds for commercial fish species.

Oceans are turning gradually more acidic as they absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, it said. The corrosive effect undermines the ability of corals, crabs or lobsters to build protective shells.

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