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Police and protesters clash in Copenhagen

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 16 December 2009

With just two days left for negotiators to reach a deal at the climate change summit, police and protesters have clashed in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen climate protesters clash with police (credit:Getty Images)

Demonstrators tried to break through the perimeter fence at the conference centre.

Activists have been angered by delegates' failure to make significant progress in talks on carbon emission cuts - and frustrated by the difficulties they have had gaining access to the summit.

At the conference itself, the summit's Danish chair resigned today following an agreement reached between Gordon Brown and the Danish and Australian prime ministers.

Unrestrained use of batons has been the hallmark of Danish policing of protest at these climate talks.

Up to a thousand demonstrators marched on the conference centre, threatening to disrupt proceedings or reclaim it for the people, depending on your point of view.

They were met by a wall of police who used pepper spray and tear gas to hold them back.

Around 240 were arrested.  The Danish hard line held and no-one got through.  The scuffles continued for several hours until the protesters decided to turn back to the city.

Inside the conference centre, a small group staged a noisy walkout to try to join those outside. Among them, Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian scientist who heads the IPCC, the body whose climate research underpins these talks - talks that remain stubbornly deadlocked.

It is all now down to the prime ministers and presidents who arrive hourly.  Gordon Brown is playing a pivotal role to rescue a deal he told science correspondent Julian Rush could still fail.

"It's possible that there can be a deadlock, nobody can doubt that. But it's also, I think, possible to see a way through," he said.

"It demands first of all that the leaders rise to the challenge and don't duck the big decisions. Secondly I think it requires, not only that but a higher level of ambition on our part. And thirdly of course it's going to be tough negotiations over the next few hours."

An all-night session last night failed to make any progress. Mr Brown's cautious optimism there may be a way forward hinges on a plan to resolve one key issue - financial help for poor countries.

He is backing a proposal from the Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi - a commission to report in six months on new and innovative ways of raising up to $100bn a year by 2020. It kicks it into touch, but the idea is gaining some support here.

Everybody blames everybody else here for the lack of progress, but if there is a common thread it is that the two biggest players here must shift their positions.

The frustration of the demonstrators outside is matched by the frustration felt inside.

In a desperate bid to avoid complete breakdown, the Danish prime minister said he will be putting forward a text for the political agreement world leaders want to sign on Friday. Already the Chinese have said they will not accept it.

All sides are as far apart as they ever were.

Catherine Namugala, the Zambian Environment Minister, told Channel 4 News of her frustration at the UN negotiations.

"We are disappointed at the slow progress," she said. "We, as least developed countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa have continued to suffer the consequences of climate change. We are demanding that the developed world must show leadership.

"The whole world is highly expectant of this process, we've all been looking forward to COP15 to come up with solutions that must make sense to our people, that will be relevant to the people.

"We are saying that we cannot continue to pay the price for a problem that has been caused by overconsumption in the industrialised world."

Science correspondent Julian Rush said that the US is "certainly one of the countries that is dragging its feet".

"America was largely responsible for the delays overnight that caused last night's all-night session that ended effectively with little or no progress on the ideas for a new treaty to follow on from Copenhagen here and to be developed during the course of the next year or so.

"President Obama said tonight in the White House that he felt that when he comes here to Copenhagen his presence here could perhaps bring a verifiable and a strong agreement, but if that's to happen he's going to really have to encourage his negotiators to shift.

"Everybody here says China and America are the two countries that must shift.

"Given that though, there is one sign of hope. America has said tonight it will put $1bn into a $3.5bn fund to help deal with deforestation. Britain is putting in some $480m as well.

"That is one of the key problems here - dealing with deforestation. It's one of the most important pillars of making any agreement work here, but everything is conditional on there being a proper agreement out of this meeting here in Copenhagen."

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