by RAY FLEMING

PROSPECTS for a positive end to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference were transformed from near-despair to cautious optimism by the initiative announced yesterday by Hillary Clinton on behalf of the United States. It has been clear for ten days that while there has been virtual unanimity at Copenhagen on the need for global measures to combat climate change there has also been profound dissatisfaction among most developing countries over the unwillingness of the industrial West to compensate them for the effects of global warming which they have played little or no role in creating. Some weeks ago the European Union proposed a fund to provide $100bn annually for such compensation between 2012 and 2020 and, in effect, Secretary of State Clinton's offer was for the US to participate in this fund and help to mobilise support for it. She also made it absolutely clear that her offer depended on a binding agreement that all countries benefitting from the fund -- including China -- would agree to independent verification of the savings in carbon emissions that resulted from it.

Initial reactions to Mrs Clinton's initiative were reasonably positive from many developing countries, including Brazil, India and South Africa, but it is China's response that will matter most. For years the United States has been in the position of the foot-dragger on climate change. Now China has been put on the spot to agree to the conditions set by the US for a global deal that most countries will want. Twelve hours to go

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