Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nations Fail to Offer CO2 Targets at UN Climate Talks

The world’s wealthiest nations failed to offer more ambitious carbon-dioxide cuts, stalling United Nations climate talks as developing countries called for funding help and technology to combat global warming.

“Progress has been very slow in Bonn,” Amjad Abdulla, director-general of the Maldives Environment Ministry, said today as 10 days of UN climate talks wrapped up. “Developed countries have been very reluctant to put numbers on the table” for emissions cuts and financial aid to poorer nations.

Delegates from 175 countries in Bonn were working to reach an agreement on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December. With two more meetings already scheduled before then, negotiators agreed to add sessions in August and October to enable both sides to work out their differences.

Countries are divided over the scale of emissions cuts necessary to avert dangerous effects of warming temperatures, and the Maldives was among 43 low-lying nations demanding that the U.S., Japan and other wealthier countries slash emissions at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

“The industrialized countries have not yet shown the necessary leadership,” Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard said. “Not leadership when it comes to reduction commitments. Not leadership when it comes to finance.”

So far, the 27-nation European Union has said it will reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and will raise the commitment to 30 percent should other rich nations make comparable pledges in a Copenhagen agreement that replaces the expiring Kyoto treaty.

U.S. is ‘Significant’

“What kind of target the U.S. is ready to assume is equally significant,” Shyam Saran, India’s special envoy on climate change, said yesterday. “We don’t have much clarity at this point and there are other industrialized countries which we do not know at the moment what is it that they’re ready to sign onto. Japan as well.”

The talks are divided into two main forums. The first is for parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the current global warming treaty that includes all developed nations except the U.S. The other is a wider group that includes the U.S.

The U.S. has yet to formally submit a reduction commitment to the talks though President Barack Obama made an election pledge to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

“We are still forming our position,” U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing told delegates today. “We are actively working to move forward aggressively. We’re working on our domestic policy.”

Clarity Needed

Clarity from the U.S. will be needed before industrialized countries agree to make pledges, said Harald Dovland, who chairs the Kyoto Protocol forum talks.

“The industrialized countries in the Kyoto Protocol are very, very nervous about coming up with numbers without knowing what the U.S. is going to do,” Dovland told reporters today.

Japan, considering options ranging from a 4 percent increase in emissions to a 25 percent reduction, has said it will make an announcement by June. Russia and the Ukraine haven’t yet made pledges.

Based on what developed countries have proposed so far, they will probably trim carbon output 4 percent to 14 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, the environmental group Greenpeace estimates. That’s less than a UN panel said in 2007 was necessary to avert a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since industrialization, a threshold countries including the European Union’s members deem dangerous.

‘More Ambitious Targets Needed’

“Numbers are still a significant distance from that range so more ambitious targets are needed from industrialized countries,” UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said today.

The other issue that developing countries want to see progress on is how wealthier nations will help them to develop clean technology and adapt to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and decreased rainfall.

“The progress achieved so far has been disappointing,” India’s Saran told reporters. “There is still no clarity over the scale of financial and technological resources that would be available to developing countries.”

In order to give negotiators more time to iron out differences, delegates this week agreed to hold additional talks from Aug. 10-14 in Bonn and from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 at a location yet to be decided. That’s on top of already-scheduled meetings in Bonn in June and in Bangkok for late September.

A final debate concerns how to draw together the two negotiating forums in Copenhagen. Dovland and his counterpart Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs the wider group that includes the U.S., both said they intend to produce negotiating texts by the next meeting in June.

It’s even possible Copenhagen won’t result in a single treaty, Cutajar told reporters.

“The way we’re going we’re going to have two documents but there are different proposals on the table, including a proposal that we have one document,” Cutajar said. “The form is not as important as the content” of the agreement that is reached in Copenhagen, he said.


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