Denmark: nearly 1,000 climate protesters released

Updated: 2009-12-13 20:41
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COPENHAGEN: Danish police on Sunday released hundreds of activists who were detained during a mass rally demanding strong action from delegates at the UN climate conference.

Police said only 13 of the 968 people detained during and after the demonstration in Copenhagen remained in custody Sunday. Of those, three -- two Danes and a Frenchman -- were set to be arraigned in court on preliminary charges of fighting with police.

Denmark: nearly 1,000 climate protesters released
Arrested demonstrators sit on the ground as they are surrounded by the police during a rally outside the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December 12, 2009. [Agencies] 

The conference took a day off Sunday, though environment ministers were meeting for informal talks on greenhouse emissions cuts and financing for poor nations to deal with climate change.

The pledges on emissions cuts so far are short of the minimum proposed in a draft agreement to keep temperatures from rising to a dangerous level.

An estimated 40,000 people joined Saturday's mostly peaceful march toward the suburban conference center where the 192-nation UN climate conference is being held.

Riot police detained activists at the tail end of the demonstration when some of them started vandalizing buildings in downtown Copenhagen. Windows were broken at the former stock exchange and the Foreign Ministry.

A police officer received minor injuries when he was hit by a rock thrown from the group and one protester was injured by fireworks, police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said.

The majority of peaceful demonstrators chanted and carried banners reading "Demand Climate Justice," "The World Wants a Real Deal" and "There is No Planet B," navigating for miles along city streets and over bridges past officers in riot gear, police dogs and the flashing lights of dozens of police vans.

Inside the Bella Center, delegates gathered around flat-screen TVs showing both the larger peaceful rally and the police crackdown on the young activists. Conference President Connie Hedegaard condemned the troublemakers.

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"You don't have to exert that kind of violence to be heard because this is a process where your views are very much included," she said.

More demonstrations were planned on Sunday.

At the talks, the European Union, Japan and Australia joined the US Saturday in criticizing the draft global warming pact that says major developing nations must rein in greenhouse gases, but only if they have outside financing. Rich nations want to require developing nations to limit emissions, with or without financial help.

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the 27-nation EU, told The Associated Press that "there has been a growing understanding that there must be commitments to actions by emerging economies as well."

He said those commitments "must be binding, in the sense that states are standing behind their commitments."

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country -- the world's No. 5 greenhouse gas polluter -- will not offer more than its current pledge to slow its growth rate of emissions. It has offered to cut greenhouse gases measured against production by 20 to 25 percent by 2020.

"National interest trumps everything else," Ramesh told the AP. "Whatever I have to do, I've said in my Parliament. We'll engage them (the US and China). I'm not here to make new offers."

China has made voluntary commitments to rein in its carbon emissions. In China's view, the US and other rich countries have a heavy historical responsibility to cut emissions and any climate deal in Copenhagen should take into account a country's level of development.

Britain's Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said dealmakers have a long way to go. "There are difficult issues to overcome," he said, "around emissions, around finance, and around transparency and they are all issues we need to tackle in the coming days."