1 December 2014 Last updated at 16:21
UN climate talks begin as global temperatures break records
A key UN climate meeting in Peru has opened with negotiators attempting to advance a new global agreement.
One hundred and ninety-five nations have committed to finalising a new climate pact in Paris by 2015's end.
The process has been boosted by recent developments, including a joint announcement on cutting carbon by the US and China.
The two weeks of discussions have started amid record-breaking global temperatures for the year to date.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), the global average temperature over land and ocean from January to October was the hottest since records began in 1880.
Speaking at the opening ceremony in Lima, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that the conference had to make history.
"2014 is threatening to be the hottest year in history and emissions continue to rise, we need to act urgently," she told the negotiators.
"We should be able to lay the foundations for a strong agreement in Paris and raise the level of our ambitions so that gradually over the long term we are able to achieve climate neutrality - this is the only way to truly achieve sustainable development for all."Forward momentum
Delegates will attempt to build on the this year's positive momentum that has seen a new political engagement with the process.
In September, millions of people took to the streets of cities all over the world in a demonstration of popular support for a new approach.
Days later, 125 world leaders attended a meeting called by the UN secretary general, where they re-affirmed their commitments to tackle the problem through a new global agreement.
The chances of that happening were increased by November's announcement from the US and China, with the Chinese signalling that their emissions would peak around 2030.
The European Union also contributed to the positive mood by agreeing climate targets for 2030.
There has also been good news on climate finance. The UN's Green Climate Fund (GCF) secured over $9bn in commitments at a recent pledging conference in Berlin.
Now in Lima, the negotiating teams will try to boost these advances and maintain a momentum that will survive to Paris. But observers say there are many "formidable challenges" ahead.
"Ultimately this is not a problem that can be solved by just the US, China, and the EU," said Paul Bledsoe, senior climate fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the US.
"There's a whole series of countries - Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia - who have not made commitments (to cut emissions) and we don't know yet how robust their commitments are."Form and function
One key element of the puzzle that needs to be resolved in Peru is the scale of "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDC).
By the end of March next year, all countries are expected to announce the level of their efforts to cut carbon as part of the Paris deal.
But, as yet, there is no agreement on what should be included or excluded from these INDC statements.
"Developed countries want a narrow scope for those guidelines, but developing countries are pushing for finance and adaption in them," said Liz Gallagher from the think-tank E3G, and a long-time observer of the UN talks process.
"That seems to be a tactical move to make sure that finance and adaptation get more political attention than in the past - for me that's where the big tensions in Lima will be."
As well as the INDC discussion, there will be strong debate about what needs to be included in the final text. Parties are likely to clash over the long-term goal of any new agreement and its legal shape.
Many countries, including the US, have signalled that they will be unable to enter a legally binding deal on emissions cuts.
There will also be pressure for countries to come up with significant contributions in the period up to 2020 when a new deal is likely to come into force.
There are concerns that the scale of division between the interests of richer and poorer countries could lead to stalemate.
"I believe the developing countries need to be careful who they allow to speak as their leadership," said Paul Bledsoe.
"I don't believe that petrol states like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela are the appropriate leaders for the interests of less rich countries, most of whom do not have fossil resources.
"It is important that the great majority of developing countries who don't have fossil resources don't get gamed by those who do."
Many attendees believe that the concerns about temperatures, and the engagement of political leaders, as demonstrated in recent months, will be positive for the process.
"I think, this top-down pressure will force countries to think they can't always retreat to their old school lines," said Liz Gallagher.
"Whether that will be positive or negative, I think that disruption to the negotiation dynamic is helpful at this stage.
"I think the countries' 'true colours' will start to come out a bit. That's useful for the public to know."
12 December 2014 Last updated at 00:23
Australia eyes indigenous recognition vote
More than a century after its constitution was drafted, Australia is edging closer to formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the nation's first people.
Changing the constitution to recognise the nation's first people is not about politics, says Mike Baird, premier of New South Wales - Australia's biggest state. It's about righting a wrong.
"It is an important part of who we are, it is an important part of our history," he says.
Earlier, this month, Mr Baird became the first state or territory leader to publicly back a federal government campaign - started by the previous Labor government and adopted by coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott - to reverse the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people from Australia's constitution.
To do that, the public would have to vote in a referendum.
It was a timely statement. On Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged to hold the referendum in 2017.
One has been promised since 2010 - but getting there could still take years and involve a fraught debate about racial discrimination and whether such recognition really benefits indigenous Australians.
Mr Abbott said he hoped the vote would be held in May 2017 - on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that approved constitutional amendments relating to the country's indigenous people. But he wanted to be confident the referendum would succeed.
"I do not want it to fail because every Australian would be the loser. It is more important to get this right than to try to rush it through," he told a dinner of supporters on constitutional change in Sydney.
Unlike other settler nations such as Canada and New Zealand, Australia's constitution makes no mention of its indigenous people and still has two so-called "race provisions", including one that allows the states to ban people from voting based on their race.
These, says human rights lawyer George Newhouse, make Australia "now the only English-speaking nation in the world with a constitution that explicitly and intentionally permits its parliament to pass racist laws".
An official Recognise campaign, funded to grow awareness and support for the change, points out that the constitution mentions Queen Victoria, the British parliament, lighthouses, beacons and buoys - but not the first Australians.
The planned constitutional recognition referendum is a "once in a generation opportunity", says indigenous leader Patrick Dodson.
It will, he says, improve Australia's international standing and respect if it gets it right, and attract derision "if we don't".'Hardness of heart'
There is at least 70% support for constitutional recognition, according to opinion polls.
But referendum experts say that support could dissipate if the issue is left to drift for too long, fails to go far enough, or loses bipartisan support.
Mr Abbott said earlier Australia needed to atone for the "hardness of heart of our forebears".
"We have to acknowledge that pre-1788, this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now and, until we have acknowledged that, we will be an incomplete nation and a torn people," he said.
But he has been less enthusiastic about the recommendation from an expert panel of indigenous, business, legal and community leaders that recognition should include strong constitutional protection from racial discrimination.
Critics warn that could expose parliament to excessive court challenges.
"We should be prepared to consider and refine any proposal for some time because it is so much better to get this right than to rush it," Mr Abbott recently said in an oration for Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.
"The worst of all outcomes would be dividing our country in an effort to unite it."'New nation'
Indigenous Australians represent 2.5% of Australia's 24 million people. Generations of discrimination and disadvantage have left them with poor health and low levels of education and employment.
Indigenous leaders say the constitution has compounded that discrimination and that recognition will help to heal divisions.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says it is the "missing jigsaw piece".
"[A referendum] is not the high court judges or politicians, it's the people saying 'we recognise there were other people here before we arrived', and that could be so powerful it would go to heal a lot of wounds," he says.
"If this gets up, we will wake up the next day to a new nation."
Australian referendum history is not on the side of a "Yes" vote. Changing the constitution requires not only a majority of overall votes, but a majority of votes in a majority of Australia's six states.
Australians have rejected 36 of 44 referendum proposals held since 1900, including one in 1999 that proposed establishing a republic and a preamble recognising indigenous people.
Many high-profile indigenous Australians back recognition - from intellectuals such as Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton to popular footballer and current Australian of the year Adam Goodes, and singer songwriter Archie Roach.
Tens of thousands of non-indigenous Australians and corporate and sporting heavyweights - such as Qantas, Westpac, Cricket Australia and the AFL - have also signed up to support the Recognise campaign.
But others are not convinced. Influential conservative commentator Andrew Bolt says it's a step "on the path to apartheid", while indigenous opponents say it will set back the long-term campaign for a treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Constitutional expert Professor George Williams says the big sticking point is whether the constitution should include a broad prohibition on racial discrimination.
"If it doesn't protect from racial discrimination, I think we will see a very large part of the Aboriginal community losing interest or opposing it," Prof Williams says.
"They, more than any other group in Australia, have been subject to very discriminatory laws that have denied them the vote, the right to marry, to move [from one state to another], to earn a fair wage.
"They want a meaningful response to that. Symbolism just won't cut it."What's at stake:
The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples has recommended these changes to the constitution:
- Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters.
- Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Repealing the two so-called "race provisions":
- section 25 that recognises that the states can disqualify people from voting on the basis of their race
- section 51(26) that allows laws to be made based upon a person's race.
The committee has suggested three options for replacing section 51(26) to ensure that specific Indigenous laws like native title and heritage protection are preserved and to provide either broad, limited, or no protection on racial discrimination.
12 December 2014 Last updated at 03:20
US House passes $1.1tn budget bill to avert shutdown
The US House of Representatives has passed a $1.1tn budget hours before government was due to shut down at midnight on Thursday.
The Republican measure was passed by 219 votes to 206 after President Barack Obama had urged Democrats to support the measure.
It will fund most of the government until September 2015, but some areas will only receive emergency funding.
Republicans won control of both House and Senate in elections last month.
A relieved John Boehner, the Republicans' House leader, said: "Thank you and Merry Christmas."
Fifty-seven Democrats vote for the bill, but others were bitter at the president's appeal, with Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi says she was "enormously disappointed" at Mr Obama's position.Immigration issue
The Republicans strongly oppose President Obama's immigration reforms and so the bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security until February.
Republicans hope that when the new congress meets at the start of next year, they can force changes to the president's plans.
The bill must now be passed by the Senate and send to the president to sign into law.
The bill funds the government at the same levels that were negotiated last December.
It also adds emergency funding requested by President Barack Obama, including funds to fight Ebola in West Africa and money for US air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
As presented earlier in the week, the 1,600 page bill also includes a number of provisions intended to gain votes from both parties, including:
- increasing the amount an individual person can contribute to a national political party from $32,400 to $324,000
- blocks the District of Columbia from using its own funds to set up regulatory systems for marijuana legalisation
- measures that would significantly weaken new regulations about risky financial instruments called swaps
- blocking certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
- cuts in the budgets of the EPA and the US tax agency
- increases in the budget for Wall Street regulation agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission.
12 December 2014 Last updated at 01:54
Italy's PM Matteo Renzi in fight against job barriers
It is quite unusual for an entire country to be able to quote the exact number of a particular subsection of its employment laws.
But the future of Italy's economy and perhaps its government comes down to a debate over Article 18 of the 1970 Employment Law.
Italy's main trade unions have called out their members on general strike in order to protect this article. It essentially protects workers in medium-sized and large firms from being fired. Critics argue that it makes businesses hesitate to hire new workers - for fear of never being able to get rid of them.
As a result, this creates a two-tier job market - a top tier for mostly older workers who have permanent jobs from which they cannot be fired, and a second tier for mostly younger workers who have to survive on unofficial, short-term contracts. Some don't even manage that. Among 15 to 25-year-olds the unemployment rate is 43%.
"It is unthinkable that someone like me is impossible to fire and someone who is 30 has no guarantees," says 46-year-old Prof Giovanni Orsina, from Rome's LUISS University. "To start to build a model that makes it possible to live with flexibility, a regulated flexibility, is sacrosanct."
Economists argue that Italy's rigid labour laws stop the country's economy from growing. Italy's economy is currently in recession. Over the past year, its GDP has fallen by 0.4%. In the decade to 2010, only two countries had lower GDP growth than Italy's - Haiti and Zimbabwe.International pressure
In recent years, a series of Italian governments has tried to reform or bypass Article 18, without lasting success. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi took office in February 2014 with a promise to create a single-tiered, more fluid job market.
His centrepiece Jobs Act was recently approved by parliament. (The Act is known in Italy by its English-language term - in an attempt to sound dynamic and to echo President Barack Obama's own 2011 American Jobs Act.) But details of its implementation have yet to be agreed.
The International Monetary Fund and European Union both support attempts to change the country's labour laws. The EU is also insistent that Italy stick to the eurozone's strict rule - budget deficits cannot exceed 3%. Mr Renzi has criticised this rule, but says that he will abide by it.
His tougher problem lies with Italy's trade unions. They believe that the existing labour laws protect workers who could otherwise be fired by unscrupulous firms. That is why they have called their strike.No quick fix
"Italians continue to think that providence will come and solve their problems," says Prof Orsina.
"There is a huge pressure, a typical Italian mechanism, linked to thinking that problems can be solved quickly. And Renzi offered that picture - having arrived without the legitimacy of an election - saying 'I'm here because I'm a problem-solver'. He offered to solve things quickly. But this is a promise that can't be kept. The problems are dense and profound."
There is much that Italy seeks to preserve. The country has an incredibly well-supported, healthy, early-retiring, long-living population. Its members of parliament earn more than any of their EU counterparts. State officials have thousands of chauffeur-driven cars to drive them to work.
But the country's official lifestyle comes at a cost. Its youngest and most educated citizens cannot find work. In 2013, 82,000 Italians emigrated - the highest number for 10 years.
The prime minister hopes that his Jobs Act will persuade them to return.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------11 December 2014 Last updated at 22:00
Indian tribal protesters stand up for their rights
For more than six months, a group of 50 tribespeople have been standing outside a government office in the southern Indian state of Kerala to press their claim for land and amenities.
They are demanding that the government deliver on its promise of giving land, water and electricity to the community.
Tribespeople comprise nearly 500,000 of Kerala's 33 million people and are mostly landless and desperately poor.
The agitators have travelled to the capital, Trivandrum, from their faraway villages to participate in the protest.
They live in a rented house in the city and arrive at the office at eight every morning to begin what they call "Nilpu Samaram" or "Standing Stir". They bring their own food.
The tribespeople stand uninterruptedly for nearly 11 hours every day outside the office even as ministers and officials pass them by.
Writers, filmmakers and some political leaders drop in to pledge support. Some donate money; others sing revolutionary songs.
"Many more are willing to come but we are restricting the number to avoid inconvenience to the people," protest leader CK Janu says.Stellar record
At the root of the demonstration is a long and arduous battle that Ms Janu and her fellow travellers have fought for their fundamental rights.
By Indian standards, Kerala has a stellar record in land reform - distributing land to the landless - but it appears to have bypassed its tribespeople.
The tribespeople say they were promised land - ranging from one to five acres per family - by a previous Congress party-led government headed by former chief minister AK Antony after they waged a 48-day-long protest in 2001.
Ms Janu says the number of landless tribal families has now grown to about 75,000 - up from 35,000 during the 2001 protest when the government promised to allocate 12,000 acres of land for their rehabilitation.
When the government failed to keep its promise, Ms Janu led more than 1,000 tribespeople in 2003 to illegally occupy a wildlife sanctuary in Wayanad district.
Armed police and wildlife officials took two days to clear the sanctuary. A tribal and a policeman were killed in pitched battles and police firing.'Without a break'
Kerala's minister for tribespeople PK Jayalakshmi says the government has met most of the protesters' demands.
The government has so far been able to provide more than 9,000 acres of land to 6,887 families and plans are afoot to give land to another 417 families soon.
"Land is being distributed as per its availability. It is a continuing process," Ms Jayalakshmi says.
But Ms Janu is not convinced.
"There's no water, power and other infrastructure where land has been given to us. Most of the land is not cultivable. Officials are not visiting their new villages in the forests and seeing the conditions our people are living in," she says.
"The government should have done its homework properly before the 2001 agreement. We want to live with dignity."
The protesters mainly live in the three districts of Wayanad, Idukki and Palakkad and, reports say, in recent years, a number of infants have died due to malnutrition and local women have been sexually abused in the tribal settlements by outsiders.
They say it is not easy fighting for your rights standing up the whole day.
Twenty-one-year-old Vineetha's family received an acre of land but, she says, the land cannot be cultivated and is often trampled over by marauding elephants and wild boars in the northern district of Kannur.
Now she participates in the protest every day, with her 42-year-old mother Kamala.
"I have developed body pain and swollen feel as I come here every day and stand without a break," she says.
But she is not willing to give up fighting: "My mother and I are prepared to die here. We will not go back until our demands are met."
By Andrew Harding
Burmese women in Thai 'human zoo'<http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/7215182.stm>
BBC News, Mae Hong Son
It is hard not to stare. At the end of a dirt track, deep in the Thai jungle, a group of women sit in the shade, fingering the coils of brass which snake tightly around their unnaturally long, giraffe-like necks.
“ It's absolutely a human zoo - one solution is for tourists to stop going ”
"It's incredible," says a Canadian tourist, snapping away with his camera, as the women pose - heads bobbing stiffly far above their shoulders - and try to sell him a few souvenirs from the doorsteps of their bamboo huts.
For years the prospect of visiting one of three "long-necked" Kayan villages in this remote corner of north-western Thailand, close to the Burmese border, has been a major lure for foreign tourists.
In return, the visitors have helped to provide a very modest income for the Kayan women and their families, who are all refugees from Burma.
But in a dramatic intervention, the United Nations is now talking of the need for a tourism boycott, amid allegations that the Kayan are being trapped in a "human zoo".
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says that for the past two years, the Thai authorities have refused to allow a group of 20 Kayan to leave the country, despite firm offers to resettle them in Finland and New Zealand.
The suspicion is that the women are being kept in Thailand because of the central role they play in the local tourism industry.
"We don't understand why these 20 are not allowed to start new lives," said the UNHCR's regional spokeswoman, Kitty McKinsey.
"The Thai authorities are treating them in a special way," she argued, pointing out that some 20,000 other Burmese refugees had recently been allowed to move to third countries.
“ Actually they aren't refugees ”
Thai official “ They absolutely are refugees ”
"It's absolutely a human zoo," she said. "One solution is for tourists to stop going."
At the centre of this increasingly heated dispute is a quietly determined 23-year-old woman called Zember, who has proudly worn her tribe's traditional neck rings since she was five.
Zember and her family fled their home in the hills of eastern Burma 18 years ago. Her mother, Mu Pao, remembers government troops raiding their village and taking the men away by force to work as porters.
Like tens of thousands of people, the Kayan headed for the Thai border. But instead of being kept with the other refugees, the "long-necked" families were put in a separate compound a few yards from the official camp.
Since then, the ethnic conflicts inside Burma have raged on, and the Kayan community in Thailand has swelled to about 500.
"At least we're safe here and we can earn some money," said Mu Pao. Each tourist pays a 250 baht (US$8; £4) entrance fee.
Other older women in the village agreed that, with little hope of ever returning to Burma, earning 1500 baht a month to be stared at by tourists was an acceptable deal.
But in 2005, a far better deal emerged. The UNHCR began offering permanent resettlement abroad to the many thousands of refugees still living in the area.
Many of the Kayan applied, and Zember and her family were quickly told they'd been accepted.
"I was so happy," said Zember. "They tell me a house is already waiting for us in New Zealand."
For the past two years, however, the Thai authorities have refused to sign the paperwork needed for Zember and 19 others to leave the country.
"Actually they aren't refugees," said Wachira Chotirosseranee, the deputy district officer and refugee camp commander, who insisted this was a purely bureaucratic matter with no connection to the local tourism industry.
"According to the regulations, you have to live inside the refugee camp. They don't meet the criteria."
The Thai authorities argue that the Kayan are economic migrants who earn a good living from the tourist trade and have chosen to settle outside the refugee camps.
"They absolutely are refugees," said the UNHCR's Kitty McKinsey. "It comes as a great surprise that the Thai authorities are criticising them for living outside the camps, when it was the Thai authorities who wanted them to live (outside)."
In frustration, and as an act of protest, Zember has now taken off her neck rings. "It felt uncomfortable at first," she said, rubbing her throat.
Over the years, the rings push the women's shoulders and ribs down, making their necks appear stretched.
"Because of my rings I have suffered many problems," she said. "I wear them not for tourists. I wear them for tradition... Now I feel like a prisoner."
11 December 2014 Last updated at 13:45
Will Kerry strike gold at Lima climate talks?
The US secretary of state John Kerry will arrive in Lima today to push forward global climate negotiations, taking place in the city.
Mr Kerry is the most senior American official to attend the talks since President Obama went to Copenhagen in 2009 - an event that didn't end particularly well.
The Secretary of State has long been the most engaged American politician on the issue of climate and environment and his attendance at these UN negotiations is being seen as further evidence that the US is determined to make up for the failures of Copenhagen in 2009 and deliver a strong agreement in Paris next year.
For once, the US is not being seen as the Great Satan of CO2.
Thanks to their joint initiative with China, the two countries are taking a bow as leaders of the fight against rising temperatures.
The change in atmosphere could be seen on the poker face of US special climate envoy Todd Stern, who in recent days has been a veritable ray of sunshine.
The way he sees it, the deal that is being negotiated here - and will likely be signed in Paris - is a truly historic event.
"We are trying to do an agreement that is intended to last for decades. This is supposed to be not an agreement that we come back and renegotiate every five years, but an agreement that establishes a stable and durable structure."
Here in Lima, the parties are trying to get the "elements" of a deal together, which essentially means a chunky negotiating text with plenty of options still on the table.
One of the ideas that's getting a lot of attention from environmental activists is the aim to have zero emissions by 2050.
This item is still alive in the draft text and has support from a large number of developing countries. Green groups believe that the politicians are heeding the message from the streets.
"The public call for 100% clean energy has gone mainstream, and finally leaders are starting to respond with ambitious targets," said Iain Keith from Avaaz.
But the idea is not popular with the boys from the black stuff, the countries who make their living from oil and coal.
"The zero-emissions concept - or let's knock fossils fuels out of the picture without clear technology diffusion and solid international cooperation programmes - does not help the process," said Saudi Arabia's chief negotiator in Lima, Khalid Abuleif.
"I do not think this is realistic when two billion people do not have access to energy," he added, a tad sniffily.
While arguments about the long term goal are unlikely to be settled by Mr Kerry, his presence might increase the pressure on the countries that are dragging their heels on their commitments.
India has been noticeably silent on the idea that it might peak its emissions at a specified date in the future.
The Indians are said to be feeling a bit bruised after their great ally, China, seems to have sided with the US.
Perhaps they are waiting for the kind of in-depth love and attention the US lavished on China to get them to move forward?
Don't hold your breath says Mr Stern.
"We don't have that kind of process going on with India," he told reporters.
Another challenge for Mr Kerry will be the need to try and usher some recalcitrant countries to join the party - especially Australia.
The Lucky Country has been vilified here for its stance on climate change.
"Since the Abbott government came in, it has replaced Australia's comprehensive climate legislation with a regime where emissions are now set to increase substantially, against decreasing trends in the US," said Bill Hare, from the Climate Analytics think-tank.
"Many in the government are denying the yeti-scale footprint of climate change impacts being felt by people from one end of the country to the other."
The Australians have surprised many attendees by making a $160m contribution to the Green Climate Fund.
According to foreign minister Julie Bishop, it was part of Australia's "commitment to play our part in the global response to climate change".
But money doesn't seem to buy friends here in Lima. Green groups have given the country their mocking "fossil of the day" award several times during this conference of the parties.
Mr Kerry will have his work cut out.
Don't wreck deal, US warns, as climate talks jam
Kerry on the negotiations : If they fail 'future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a massive collective moral failure of historic consequence'
Richard Ingham, Agence France-Presse
LIMA, Peru – The United States urged developing countries Thursday, December 11, to ease objections to a world deal on climate change as deadlines loomed at a 12-day UN meeting in Lima.
The talks, meant to pave the way to a landmark pact in Paris next year, are scheduled to conclude on Friday, but delegates reported deadlock and a souring mood as the final day neared.
In a speech touching on one of the thorniest issues, US Secretary of State John Kerry called on developing nations to understand they too had to curb carbon emissions even if they felt it was unfair.
"I know the discussions can be tense and decisions are difficult and I know how angry some people are about the predicament they've been put in by big nations that have benefited from industrialization for a long period of time," Kerry said.
But, "we have to remember that today more than half of global emissions – more than half – are coming from developing nations. So it is imperative that they act too."
If the negotiations fail, "future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a massive collective moral failure of historic consequence," he warned.
The envisioned pact would bring all the world's nations into a single forum for cutting heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for damaging Earth's climate systems.
To be sealed in December 2015 and enter into force by 2020, it must ensure global warming does not exceed two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.
The Lima round began on December 1 on a hopeful note, following promises by China, the United States and the European Union -- the world's three biggest carbon polluters -- to tackle their emissions.
Money, too, began to flow into the Green Climate Fund, the main vehicle for channeling at least $100 billion (80 billion euros) in annual aid, promised by rich countries to climate-vulnerable nations by 2020.
But on Thursday the negotiations ground on with few signs of genuine horse-trading.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged ministers to begin "real, serious negotiations."
"We have been talking over the last two decades," said Ban. "We don't have a moment to lose."
Delegates pointed to two logjams.
One is a draft blueprint for guiding negotiations up to the December 2015 finale -- a document which has ballooned as countries filed more objections and suggestions.
"We have seen the laggards throwing in language of all kinds into the negotiating document," Tony de Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, told journalists.
The other is a format for standardizing information by which countries will make carbon-cutting pledges at the heart of the 2015 accord.
Developing countries demanded pledges incorporate not just action on reducing carbon emissions, but financial help and adaptation aid to shore up climate defenses.
The sparring touched on a years-old source of friction -- how to apportion responsibility between rich and developing nations for ramping up carbon action.
Known as differentiation, it is rooted in a division of responsibilities enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at its birth 22 years ago.
At the time, UN members were split into advanced economies, the first to burn fossil fuels to power their prosperity, and developing countries, which -- until then -- bore little blame for carbon pollution.
Europe, the United States and other advanced economies accept that some form of differentiation remains valid today.
But they argue it is senseless to shape a post-2020 deal on the basis of the world as it was in 1992.
Voracious burners of coal, developing countries now account for more than half of global emissions, a share set to rise, they argue.
The UNFCCC's meetings are notorious for textual battles and delay, in some cases prolonging closure by more than a day.
Scientists are pounding an ever-louder drumbeat of warning.
Earth is on track, they say, for warming this century of about four degrees Celsius, cursing future generations with species loss, rising seas, drought, floods and disease spread.
The head of the UN's panel of climate scientists, Rajendra Pachauri, warned Thursday that only about a thousand billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) can still be emitted before the targeted two degree limit is breached.
"We are all on spaceship Earth. We are now sharing this space of a thousand gigatons of CO2," he said.
"We have to divide up this space equitably and in a matter of fair and ethical considerations because otherwise we are going to exceed the two degrees." – Rappler.com
13 December 2014 Last updated at 05:12
Lima climate talks: Peru summit continues through night
Talks have continued well past the official close of business on the final day of a key UN climate summit in Peru aimed at advancing a new global treaty.
The negotiators in the capital, Lima, are tasked with preparing a text to serve as the basis for a new compact to be signed in Paris next year.
But long-running divisions between rich and poor continue to hamper progress.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned that the world is "still on a course leading to tragedy".
He said a deal was "not an option - an urgent necessity".
Negotiators have been meeting in Lima for almost two weeks to prepare the elements of the new treaty.'Red lines'
A new text has been produced by the chairman of the talks in an effort to get a decision.
But environmental groups say that it is far too weak and threatens to leave many issues unresolved.
Lima climate talks
- Conference runs from 1 to 12 December, attended by 195 countries
- Negotiations aim to advance the outline text of an agreement on climate change, to be finalised in Paris by the end of 2015
- Progress on approving the text has been slow
- Countries are divided over whether developing countries should take on obligations to cut emissions
- The talks come amid some of the hottest global average temperatures ever on record.
In his speech, Mr Kerry said no country should have a "free pass".
"I know this is difficult for developing nations. We have to remember that today more than half of emissions are coming from developing nations, so it is imperative that they act too."
But this approach is being resisted by a number of countries, including China and many others, who want to adhere to the idea of "common but differentiated responsibilities".
Some countries are suspicious that the text being developed here in Lima is an attempt to get round the concept of differentiation, which is embedded in the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change.
The issue has become critical as the chairs of the talks introduced a new draft text that many felt watered down the original commitment.
A large group of developing nations known as the G77 objected.
"This whole exercise is not meant to rewrite the convention, this is a firm basic position of the G77," said Antonio Marcondes, Brazil's representative at the talks.
"We stand behind the differentiation, we stand behind 'common but differentiated responsibilities', these are issues we hold very strong and these are definite red lines."
Another key battle was over the initial commitments that countries are expected to make by the end of March next year.
Rich and poor are still divided over what should be part of this package, known in the jargon of the UN talks as the "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs).
Developed countries want to restrict them to carbon cuts. Developing ones want them to include finance for adaptation.Long night ahead
A further argument is over the idea that there must be some sort of review process before a new deal is signed.
It would essentially be an effort to ratchet up ambition by comparing and contrasting what countries had promised in the run up to Paris.
The idea, called an "ex-ante review", is seen as very important by some, especially the European Union.
But developing countries including India are dead set against it.
They say it is an issue of sovereignty. Outside parties, they argue, should not have the power to review what countries commit to by themselves.
"We favour a transparent presentation of country issues, but we think that an ex-ante review next year would be an unnecessary effort," said Mr Marcondes.
"It would detract from the main goal of reaching Paris with a new agreement."
These divisions are all variants of long-running splits between richer and poorer nations that have existed in the UN talks for 20 years.
The climate debate has often been neutered by the depth of these differences. It had been hoped that the positive signals from the US, China and the European Union before the meeting would help bridge the gaps, but trust is still short on the ground.
The president of the meeting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal from Peru, earlier told delegates that they would not "leave Lima with empty hands".
"We can deal with this problem and we can send a strong signal," he said. "Don't leave me alone, we can work together. It won't be me that thanks you, it will be the world."
13 December 2014 Last updated at 00:51
The Jews of Arabia
The Jews may have originated in the Middle East but they were long ago scattered far and wide - to the Gulf, among other places. Few now remain, except in Iran. But a century ago, writes Matthew Teller, there was even a proposal to found a Jewish state at an oasis near Bahrain.
In 1859 Griffith Jenkins, a senior British naval officer in the Gulf, wrote to a subordinate named Hiskal.
Hiskal - or Yehezkel - ben Yosef was a minor official representing British interests in Muscat. And, like his predecessor in the post in the 1840s (a man named Reuben), he was Jewish.
Jews had been living in Muscat since at least 1625. In 1673, according to one traveller, a synagogue was being built, implying permanence. British officer James Wellsted also noted the existence of a Jewish community on a visit in the 1830s.
Jenkins's letter talks obliquely about the Imam (a Muslim ruler who held sway in Oman's interior) and the arrival of a man from Persia. He ends by asking Hiskal to explain the matter in private - and then, remarkably, had his letter translated into Hebrew.
British Library curator Daniel Lowe, who unearthed the letter recently, is flummoxed. With Arabic in daily use, and Hiskal doubtless able to read English, why would Jenkins communicate in Hebrew?
Lowe guesses that he may have been using Hebrew as a secret code, to be understood by Hiskal but not by messengers - and, perhaps crucially, not by the Imam and the "man from Persia".
But if this remains a mystery, it's well-known that Jews once lived all across Arabia.
The Koran records Jewish tribes in and around Medina in the 7th Century, and the medieval traveller Benjamin of Tudela, who passed through in about 1170, describes sizeable Jewish populations throughout modern-day Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as on both shores of the Gulf - at Kish (Iran) and Qatif (Saudi Arabia).
Baghdad had been home to Jews since the 6th Century BC. Around the time of WW1, officials estimated the city's Jews to number between 55,000 and 80,000, in a total population of 200,000 - a proportion equal to or greater than that in centres of European Jewry such as Warsaw or Berlin.
Today, fewer than 10 individuals remain.
For a combination of reasons including economic migration, political pressure and outright persecution - notably after the State of Israel was declared in 1948 - almost all the Jewish communities of the Gulf countries dwindled to nothing in the 20th Century.
Two survive. In Iran perhaps 25,000 Jews remain, while Bahrain has a tiny Jewish minority, comprising only a few families - though they wield significant power. Until last year, Bahrain's ambassador to the US was a Jewish woman, Houda Nonoo.
Neither community, though, has had an easy time. Racist attacks were being recorded by the British in Iran in 1905 and in Bahrain in 1929.
Meanwhile, British diplomat John Gordon Lorimer hints at tensions caused by Jewish businessmen in Kuwait, who distilled "spirituous liquors" and thus enabled local Muslims to break religious laws.
In 1917 an outlandish plan was floated to use Bahrain as the bridgehead from which to establish a "Jewish State of Eastern Arabia" in the desert nearby, but it came to nothing. Just weeks afterwards British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour gave his support to the idea of establishing a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine.Today, the cultural legacy of Jewish Arabia survives most tangibly in music. This evocative song, Ya Shayile El Gerre - recorded in the 1930s on 78rpm shellac disc - features the Jewish Iraqi singer Sett Salima Pasha, accompanied almost certainly here by the Jewish Kuwaiti musicians Daoud Al-Kuwaiti (oud) and his brother Saleh (violin).
Round the Bend is a series of tales from the days when Britain ruled India and the Gulf, told with documents newly digitised by the British Library. You can explore the archive yourself.
British Library curator Daniel Lowe contributed original research for this article.
Photograph of an Aden Jew, photographer unknown
Jews in the Persian Gulf region, by John Gordon Lorimer (1908)
"Throughout the Muslim countries, these unhappy people [the Jews] have been subjected to persecution." George Curzon, MP (1892)
British diplomatic note mentioning the Jewish shopkeepers of Bahrain (1927)
12 December 2014 Last updated at 10:37
Mount Sinjar: Yazidis' tales of survival as thousands cling on for life
Months after thousands of Iraqi Yezidis threatened by Islamic State (IS) militants escaped to safety from Mount Sinjar, the BBC's Nafiseh Kohnavard has gained rare access to the mountain, where thousands more civilians who did not flee are still trapped.
IS fighters have surrounded the area again, leaving many families with little access to food or water.
Four months since the US and Britain provided aid to those stranded, those that remain rely on Iraqi helicopters for life-saving provisions and rescue.
The people face regular attacks by IS but have few heavy weapons to defend themselves.
Haydar is a teenage Yazidi boy who says he has taken up arms to protect his family
Ahmed Thwenee is an Iraqi air force helicopter pilot who flies regular aid and rescue missions to Sinjar
After helping Yazidis escape from IS, Aliya and Azan's family first went on the run only to then find themselves trapped for months on Sinjar
13 December 2014 Last updated at 02:15
US Senate backs further defence spending for anti-IS fight
The US Senate has approved a new annual defence bill expanding the military campaign against Islamic State (IS).
The bill approves a general Pentagon budget of $496bn (£316bn) plus $64bn for US wars abroad.
The measure also authorises the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebel fighters for two years.
The bill had already been passed by the House of Representatives and has now been sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposing a rigid version of Sunni Islam and persecuting or killing non-believers.
The US-led coalition has launched more than 600 air strikes against IS militant targets in Iraq since the campaign began on 8 August.
The US, with Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has also carried out almost 500 attacks on IS in neighbouring Syria since 23 September.
Until now, US operations against IS had been funded from the existing Pentagon budget.
The new bill, which was passed by 89 votes to 11, approves $3.4bn for the direct deployment of US forces against IS, and a further $1.6bn for training Iraqi Kurdish forces for two years.
Democrat Senator Carl Levin said that US air power had "changed the momentum on the ground" but added that IS "cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it".'Warthogs' stay
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) had been the subject of cross-party talks for several months.
The bill rejected President Obama's request to approve the closure of the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
It also extended a ban on transferring inmates from the prison to the US.
The bill protected for another year the fleet of aging A-10 "Warthog" ground-support aircraft, whose retirement had been proposed.
A 1% pay rise for military personnel was also agreed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lauded the bill, saying "it enhances our efforts to keep our warfighters safe on the battlefield, and it authorises the resources needed to responsibly conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan".
The bill also requires the provision of annual mental health screenings for military personnel.
Who are Islamic State (IS)?
- Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
- It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
- Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
- Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of enemy soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
- The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
- The US has been launching air strikes on IS targets in north-eastern Iraq since mid-August, and in Syria since late September
12 December 2014 Last updated at 18:53
Jean-Claude Juncker warns UK over immigration curbs
The new president of the European Commission has warned the UK not to "beat up" EU migrants as it tries to cut immigration.
Jean-Claude Juncker said people from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria were "earning their wages" and should not be treated as criminals.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to change Britain's relationship with the EU ahead of an in/out referendum.
Last month he urged EU support for curbs on welfare payments to migrants.
The UK government has admitted the scale of EU migration means it is likely to miss its target of cutting net migration to the tens of thousands before the general election in 2015.'Fundamental right'
Mr Cameron had previously vowed to "get what Britain needs" and change the free movement of people, but this met strong resistance from his European counterparts who see it as a fundamental principle of the EU.
During a debate on Austrian TV, Mr Juncker, who came to office at the start of November, said he wanted Britain to remain an active member of the EU.
But he went on to suggest that the knock-on effects of curbing free movement could have a negative impact on the City of London.
He said: "This fundamental right of free movement of workers cannot be questioned existentially because if you question the free movement of workers, Great Britain has to know that one day the free movement of capital will also have to be called into question.
"Then it will be the end for London's tax rulings, that will no longer be possible in London."
Mr Juncker said free movement of labour should not be "abused", adding: "But it is the national legislatures who should fight against this abuse and I am utterly against behaving as if all Poles, all Romanians, all Bulgarians in the European labour market are of a basic mentality that is criminal.
"These are people who are working and earning their wages.
"One should stop - especially Great Britain which always fought for the enlargement of the European Union - discriminating against countries just because, in the current context, it goes down well when one beats up others. Self-flagellation is sometimes appropriate."
Mr Cameron has said he is confident he can secure agreement for his reforms and would therefore campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in the referendum planned for 2017.
But he warned that if the UK's demands fell on "deaf ears" he would "rule nothing out".
His proposals include stopping EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years, preventing migrants from claiming child benefit for dependants living outside the UK, and removing migrants from the country after six months if they have not found work.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------12 December 2014 Last updated at 21:17
Pope declines Dalai Lama meeting in Rome
Pope Francis will not meet the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama because of the "delicate situation" with China, the Vatican says.
The Dalai Lama, who is visiting Rome, had requested a meeting.
A Vatican spokesman said that although the Pope held him "in very high regard", the request had been declined "for obvious reasons".
Correspondents say the Vatican does not want to jeopardise efforts to improve relations with China.
China describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist and reacts angrily when foreign dignitaries meet him.
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet.
He now advocates a "middle way" with China, seeking autonomy but not independence for Tibet. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
"Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates," a Vatican spokesman said. He added that the Pope would send a video message to the conference.
A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said he was "disappointed at not being able to call on His Holiness the Pope but he does not want to cause any inconvenience".Catholicism in China
- There are more Catholics in China than members of the Communist Party (about 100 million Catholics to 87.6 million party members)
- Analysts say that by 2030 there may be more Catholics in China than any other country in the world
- Christianity in China goes back to the 7th Century - but many have been forced to practise in underground, illegal churches
- There are many restrictions for the official Church, such as the requirement to register all church buildings with the government, and being unable to recognise the authority of the Vatican.
Analysts say the Vatican and China are at odds over control of the Catholic Church in China.
The Chinese Communist Party oversees an official community, known as the Patriotic Association and believed to number about 12 million people, but there is also a much larger underground Church that is loyal to the Pope.
A serious bone of contention between China and the Vatican is which side should have the final say in the appointment of bishops.
A Vatican official said the Pope's decision was "not taken out of fear but to avoid any suffering by those who have already suffered".
The last time the Dalai Lama was granted a papal audience was in 2006 when he met former Pope Benedict XVI.
The Dalai Lama is in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners. It was initially to be held in South Africa but was relocated to Rome after South Africa refused the Dalai Lama a visa.
12 December 2014 Last updated at 00:23
Retail robots: The droid at till number 7
A hardware store in San Jose has a new star employee. It can speak English and Spanish, recognise any part at sight, and knows what the shop has in stock on a second by second basis.
And it's also a robot.
OSHbot, as it is called, measures roughly 5ft, and boasts a 3D scanner and touchscreen.
"It's not just robots for robots' sake, or a marketing gimmick," insists Kyl Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs.
Lowe's is an American DIY chain, and the robot's ultimate employer.
A store associate, no matter how talented, couldn't know the real-time location and current stock levels of all of a shop's wares, according to Mr Nel.
The 3D scanner connects with a database of thousands of small screws and hinges.
Typical customers entering the store with a small part, he says, "don't know what it's called - all they know is they need 20 of them."
Much of this could be done with a smartphone, although the scanner is more powerful than a mobile phone camera.
But it is more natural to have someone to ask.
"It's another barrier if you have to download something. If you come into a store you're there for a reason, and you typically want it right away," Mr Nel says.
At the moment there are only two of the robots, with variations being field tested.
This includes whether the robots' voices should be male or female, electronic or human; whether they should have a face or not; and how fast they should move.
"But we didn't go to all that trouble to do one store in the Bay area," adds Mr Nel.Plays well with others
OSHbot is "a great example of where robotics are today in terms of their usefulness," says Rob Nail, chief executive of Singularity University, located in Nasa's Silicon Valley research park.
They are built to perform very specific, fairly limited tasks.
The key to a robot-to-human interface is that it is embodied, suggests Philip Solis, a robotics expert at ABI Research. "You're moving towards something you can interact with more - you can ask it information, and it can respond to you."
As an example he points to Jibo, which is being developed by MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal, and billed as the "world's first family robot".
Jibo does not move around, but can swivel, answer questions, read stories, and take group photographs.
"It's another form of user interface to the internet," says Mr Solis.
Human interaction is likely to prove the most difficult thing to do well, argues Mr Nail, "since we haven't had a lot of robots interacting with consumers."
OSHbot costs roughly $150,000 (£95,319, €120,200), Mr Solis estimates, though this unit cost would decrease as the market matures. By contrast, Jibo will enter the marketplace at the end of 2015 for $499 (£317, €400).
Robotics components are becoming cheaper, and instead of the full onboard computer previously required to provide processing speed, personal robots now "really just need smartphone guts", says Mr Solis.
The cost of robotics has moved from accessible only to big business, to affordable for small enterprise, meaning much more experimentation will take place, says Andra Keay, head of Silicon Valley Robotics, a non-profit industry group.
She predicts gradual improvements to things we already have based on robotics technology.Help with the heavy lifting
In this way Budgee, a robotic shopping trolley developed by Five Elements Robotics, might just become what we expect every shopping trolley to do.
This robot is purely functional. Rather than replicating a human shop assistant, it follows shoppers with their goods in tow - particularly helpful for the elderly or those with limited mobility.
On similar lines are the K5 and K10 robotic security guards being field tested by Knightscope - and in passing, possibly resembling a Dalek.
They use similar technology to the Google self-driving car, can read 300 vehicle registration plates a minute, and summon police or security guards when they encounter evidence of intruders.
Much of the biggest retail impact of robotics technologies will in fact be out of customers' eye.
Amazon purchased Kiva Systems - which makes warehouse robots - in March 2012 for $775 million (£493 million, €620 million), and is using them in its warehouses. They're not alone - robotic pickers and packers are becoming a common sight in retail distribution centres.
It's a very different approach to that of Aldebaran Robotics. Their humanoid Pepper robot was created for Japanese company Softbank, and it's more like the robot companions of science fiction.
Pepper is designed to recognise human emotions, and to react to its environment based on information held in a continually evolving cloud database. It will go on sale in Japan in February 2015 for ¥198,000 ($1,900, £1,064, €1,434).
Miss Keay thinks this is a difficult price point for its makers to pull off.
"When we're going for robots that are cheaper than $20,000-$50,000 (£12,700-31,777, €16,000-40,050), you're going to have a lot of tradeoffs in either durability, size, or functionality."This is droid you're looking for
How a robot looks could guide how we interact with technology in coming years.
"A voice in a headset saying turn left, now turn right feels a little too intimate, I think," says Mr Nail.
"But," he adds, "it's not going to be humanoid, really it's not - when people try to make them look too human, it kind of creeps us out."
We're more likely to see robots like Jibo at the moment, thinks Miss Keay.
"You've basically taken out all the hardware problems, and made a physically embodied social interaction in a not very difficult piece of hardware," she says,
"Whereas producing a small humanoid that was affordable, it's just a little too complex for where we're at."
"I really hope the novelty of the robot wears off quickly," says Singularity University's Rob Nail.
He thinks robots with access to customer databases could recreate a time "when the shopkeeper would know your name and preferences, and you'd have a tab with him."
In other words, rather than the sterile high tech environment often seen in science fiction, robots on the shop floor could bring back the personal service while shopping we associate more with the past, than the future.
Washington march: Civil rights protest over US police killings
Thousands of people have marched through the US capital, Washington DC, to protest against the recent killings of unarmed black people by police.
Relatives of Michael Brown, shot dead in the Missouri town of Ferguson, and Eric Garner, who died being restrained in New York, were among them.
Both died after encountering police, but grand juries decided not to bring charges, sparking anger and unrest.
A demonstration in New York also drew thousands despite chilly weather.
Speakers at the Capitol called for changes to US legislation.
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, told the crowd: "What a sea of people. If they don't see this and make a change, then I don't know what we got to do. Thank you for having my back."
The mood in the US capital was described as calm but defiant, with a large number of police on standby.
Earlier in the day, a small group of protesters from Missouri disrupted the schedule by taking to the stage at the starting-point, on Freedom Plaza, and blowing a bullhorn.
They complained that the protest, which was organised by long-established civil rights groups, was staid and ineffective.
At the scene: Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News, Washington DC
The brisk winter weather did not deter the thousands of protesters. Their aim - to stop what they say are the unlawful killings of black men, at the hands of the police.
The majority of people I spoke to said it was the case of Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by police in New York, which had motivated them to take to the streets, many for the first time. That case, as well as the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, has galvanised calls for change.
People say they will continue to protest until they get justice. They key question is what does that justice look like? For some that means changing legislation and the grand jury system, or giving police body cameras. But the bigger challenge is changing mindsets.Bereaved families
Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead on 9 August during an altercation with a white police officer in Ferguson.
Mr Garner, 43, died while being held down by a white police officer on 17 July.
He had been challenged over the alleged sale of loose cigarettes on a street in Staten Island, New York.
The event was caught on camera and his dying plea of "I can't breathe" has become a slogan of the protesters. It echoes the adoption of "Hands up! Don't Shoot!" - a Ferguson refrain alleging that Mr Brown was surrendering to police when the fatal shots were fired.
Relatives of three other black people killed in controversial shootings were also expected to attend the march, according to the National Action Network:
- Akai Gurley, 28, was shot dead by New York police on 20 November
- Tamir Rice, 12, was shot dead in a Cleveland, Ohio, park on 22 November while carrying a pellet gun
- Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot dead on 26 February 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida
Marchers crowded Pennsylvania Avenue for the walk from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol, but the actual numbers were not immediately clear.
Some in the crowd, which was made up of both black and white people, held banners saying: "Stop racist police", "I can't breathe", and "President Obama seize this moment. The ancestors are watching."
Speaking at the Capitol, Mr Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, called the march a "history-making moment".
"It's just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us today," she said. "I mean, look at the masses. Black, white, all races, all religions... We need to stand like this at all times."
Most people who spoke to the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan at the march cited Mr Garner's death as the main factor which had led them to join the protest, she said in a tweet.
The Rev Al Sharpton, a leading civil rights advocate, called for "legislative action that will shift things both on the books and in the streets".
In New York, protesters shouted "We will shut New York City down" and "Black lives matter", an AFP news agency correspondent reports.
New York march co-organiser Umaara Elliott urged "action... at every level of government to ensure that these racist killings by the police cease".
The decision not to prosecute a policeman over Michael Brown's death sparked riots in Ferguson and as far away as Oakland, California.
However, most of the protests over his and Mr Garner's death have been peaceful.