Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd touched down in snowy Copenhagen tonight, but the news awaiting him was anything but wonderful.

Only three days to go and the negotiations are moving as quickly as a grannie with a walking frame. The draft texts are still drowning in a sea of square brackets; some, such as the REDD (Reducing Emissions  from Deforestation and Degradation) draft, actually expanded today rather than narrowed down as would be hoped.  The most controversial issues — which developing countries deserve financial assistance to tackle climate change and how much should they get? Should the Kyoto Protocol continue or not? Should developing countries such as  China and India have their emissions reductions monitored and verified by the international community? — are still being furiously debated.

No wonder the PM was talking down the hopes of a strong outcome in Copenhagen upon his arrival.

“There’s absolutely no guarantee of success,” he told reporters in a Copenhagen hotel.

“I just believe in telling it like it is.”

Rudd’s initial message was that he is here to fight for Australia’s national interest, and will not commit us to do more than the rest of the world.

Expect Rudd to take a somewhat more multilateral, we’re all in this together, angle when he speaks at the heads of state welcoming ceremony on Thursday morning Copenhagen time.

And while Australia won a standing ovation at the Bali 2007 COP13 for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Rudd won’t be expecting the same this time around. Two years on and he is now being slammed as a “Kyoto killer” by developing nations.

“The message Kevin Rudd is giving to his people, his citizens, is a fabrication, it’s fiction,” Lumumba Di-Aping, the fiery lead negotiator of the G77 and China, said tonight.

“It does not relate to the facts because his actions are climate change scepticism in action.”

“Australia is committed to killing Kyoto,” he said.

This is a claim that climate change minister Penny Wong has consistently denied, saying that Australia is open to the idea of either a “one track” or “two track” outcome at Copenhagen. The first would see one treaty replace Kyoto, while the latter would see Kyoto continue, complemented by a new treaty bringing in the US, China and other emerging economies.

Also, one of Rudd’s pet projects, carbon capture and storage (aka clean coal) was dealt a blow today when a UNFCCC body decided that it should not yet be included in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This means Australia, which has lobbied forcefully to have clean coal included in the CDM, will not be able to generate tradable carbon-offset credits by financing the construction of carbon capture and storage projects. It will have to invest in renewable energy projects instead.

Last, but perhaps not least, Rudd was beaten by nose by UK PM Gordon Brown to be the first foreign leader to arrive at the summit. About 20 leaders are expected to hit Copenhagen on Wednesday morning and another 120, including Barack Obama, before the conference ends.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey