Scores of activists on Wednesday blocked the main entrance to the venue of key UN climate talks in Barcelona, demanding heavy cuts in greenhouse gases.
The campaigners chanting slogans and waving screaming banners denounced what they see as an attempt by developed countries to evade a legally binding international climate agreement.
The group calling itself "The Climate Is Not For Sale" is demanding emission cuts by industrial countries, of up to 40 per cent by 2020. Under the watchful eyes of anti-riot police, they accused developing countries of putting profits by large corporations, ahead of the plight of poor countries that are already suffering from the consequences of rising global temperatures.
“If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved,” said the group, in a statement released ahead of the protest.
The action came in the wake of a move by African delegates attending the conference to demand suspension of negotiations to protest the reluctance of developed countries to make firm commitments on emission cuts and funding to developing countries.
“There is no progress whatsoever being made in these negotiations, there is no need to continue like this,” declared Ousman Jarju, a delegate from the Gambia, at a charged news conference.
The African position has threatened to derail the negotiations, the last one ahead of the much anticipated Climate Change summit in Copenhagen next month. The Africa group is backed by China and G77, a caucus bringing together the bulk of developing countries.
The African delegates have accused the developed countries of focusing on the long term issues at the expense of more immediate concerns such as provision of funding for the poorer nations to cope with the effects of climate change and heavy cuts on emission targets.
“We want our developed country partners to negotiate in good faith and put numbers on the table,” said Kenyan delegate Grace Akumu. She says Kenya is already experiencing critical temperature and could suffer massive food insecurity if no measures are taken to help it cope with the effects.
The dramatic stand by the African delegates rekindled memories of the 2003 Cancun trade talks that collapsed after developing countries staged a walk out demanding a fairer.
The European Union has now acknowledged that the issues raised by the delegates on climate change are legitimate but it is prepared for only a 30 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2020, a far cry from the 40-45 per cent demanded by developing countries.
The Barcelona talks are part of an intricate process involving a series of meetings, aimed at reaching a deal on climate change at the Copenhagen Summit.
The talks focus on the international climate treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol whose current run expires in 2012 as well as ways of ensuring longer term international cooperation.
The UN hopes that countries will use this conference to work out the main points of a possible new treaty that could involve the extension and expansion of the current Kyoto Protocol.