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Protests surround Climate Conference, where negotiations have ground to a halt

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By Luis Merino, our special correspondent in Copenhagen. Several hundred people were detained today during a number of demonstrations outside the Bella Center, where delegates have failed to make any significant advances. All key issues about financing and emissions cuts remain in the air. Even now, nobody knows how this story will end.

“Let’s hope it finishes with a photo of smiling leaders, but who are smiling because they have reason to; for having reached an ambitious, just and binding agreement”. Mar Asunción, head of the Energy and Climate Change Programme of WWF Spain does not want to give up hope, although everything is pointing to a complicated finale, if not a disaster.

Spain’s Environment Minister, Elena Espinosa, has also spoken of the difficulties. “Financing is without doubt a key factor. However, emissions reductions are too and there are countries such as the United States and China that must make greater commitments in this regard”.

In the European Union, everyone is turning to the G77, a mix of developing countries that are so different and have such diverse interests that each is waiting for the other to make a move and, what is worse, without letting the others take the lead. China, India and Brazil do not appear to be ready to make headway, while it is the smaller nations in this group that are calling for an agreement. It is even possible that internal tensions end up ripping apart the G77 during the climate conference.

It is clear that delegates are facing a huge amount of pressure. The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, has replaced the former Environment Minister, Connie Hedegaard, as President of the summit, in an attempt to rescue the talks by making informal consultations, which experts claim are not going down well among those who are not consulted. It appears that all hopes once again lie with Obama arriving with a satisfactory financing package under his arm.

In the street, bicycles fly

On entering the metro in the centre of Copenhagen this morning, a luminous sign warned all Cop15 participants that the Bella Center station was closed. Police had occupied all entrances to the area surrounding the convention centre to stop Climate Justice Action demonstrators – 5,000 in different groups – from approaching the doors of the Bella Center. The police were used in force. In some areas, the police tactic was to move slowly forward with their vans in order to create a space among the demonstrators who broadcast messages in English and Spanish from a small truck. The protestors put their bikes in the way until the police literally threw them in the air to clear the way for the vans. More than 200 people were detained. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was among spectators watching the scene from the front line. “These people are expressing their views,” he said.

Inside the Bella Center, a member of the Centre for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) dressed as a polar bear hugged anyone who wanted to help him hold up a banner saying “bears need us to ensure carbon dioxide concentrations do not exceed 350 parts per million”. The bear was overwhelmed. Further on, dozens of Africans standing behind a banner repeated the chant “one voice, one position” every time one of them called out the name of an African nation from Egypt to South Africa.

Renewables more united than ever

Renewable energies have taken centre stage among the plethora of conferences, meetings and presentation on the sidelines of the COP15 negotiations. In order to ensure their message is heard loud and clear, all the regional wind and solar associations have joined forces in Copenhagen to present a common front.

The solar industry has come together through Solar COP15 (www.solarcop15.org) to share the message that solar is “a simple and practical solution to cutting carbon emissions”, and that if the sector does not grow more, “political not technological barriers are to blame”. Murria Cameron, Vice President of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is convinced that “PV could cover 12% of electricity demand in 2020. This is a desirable and achievable objective”.

The President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the largest solar association in the US, believes the sector can go further. “The American industry could contribute 15% of electricity in 2020: 12% through PV and solar thermal electric. The remaining 3% would be achieved though savings in electricity consumption resulting from the use of low-temperature solar thermal applications”.

Simon Rolland from the Alliance for Rural Electrification is also convinced that PV has an increasingly important role to play, “especially in developing countries because it offers the best and cheapest way for these countries to generate electricity”.

The wind industry has also rallied together and presented its own calculations. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Global Wind Energy Association (GWEA) have issued a joint statement alongside the Danish wind association. Its Vice Director, Jacob Lau, thinks that “wind could play a significant role in fighting climate change because, according to out calculations, the 105 GW of installed capacity in Europe in 2012 could avoid the equivalent of 32% of the emissions cuts proposed for the EU in Kyoto”.

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