UN negotiators grudgingly accept draft climate treaty

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Meeting in Bonn for a second round of talks, rich and poor countries yesterday (1 June) criticised the initial negotiating text of a new United Nations climate treaty, but grudgingly accepted it as the basis for six months of arduous negotiations.

“We […] have some dismay about the way it has been structured,” Jonathan Pershing, head of the US delegation at the June 1-12 talks among 180 nations in Bonn, said of a 53-page draft outlining ideas from all countries.

“This text should contain more balance,” said Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim of Sudan, speaking on behalf of 130 developing countries including China and India.

Despite finding fault, delegates accepted the draft as the starting point for negotiations on a treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December to curb the use of fossil fuels and widen the fight against climate change beyond the existing Kyoto Protocol.

“The session here represents a significant new step […] Governments have on the table for the first time real negotiating texts,” Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference.

“Clearly there are some hard nuts still to crack […] We have less than 200 days,” he said. Offers so far of greenhouse gas cuts by rich countries, for instance, were not enough, he said.

Ideas on the table ranged from wider use of carbon markets to a proposal that rich countries set aside up to 2% of their gross national product to help the poor cope with global warming.

‘A good start’

The United States, for example, has said the first text is weighted toward the interests of developing nations and lacks a clear statement that all countries are going to have to step up action against global warming.

Developing nations say the text has more pages on possible actions by them than on cuts in emissions by the rich. The texts are full of blanks to be filled in during later meetings.

In a later session, developing countries accused the rich of failing to set deep enough cuts in emissions to avert ever more heat waves, floods, rising sea levels or droughts projected by the UN Climate Panel.

They say UN rules require that reductions must be announced six months before Copenhagen, or by 17 June.

“This session will be the last opportunity […] to respect the six-month rule,” Ibrahim said on behalf of developing countries discussing a separate draft text about the Kyoto Protocol.

Many developing countries say the rich should cut emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst of climate change, far deeper than the cuts planned.

Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation, hinted the EU might fail to make an offer of financing for a new climate deal until Copenhagen. Developing countries want early promises of cash to help them plan.

“It will have to be before Copenhagen, or in Copenhagen. It’s a tactical issue,” he told Reuters of the timing of an offer of cash. A June EU summit is due to consider climate finance, but might not be able to agree details.

Outside the meeting, protesters from environmental group Greenpeace, dressed as snowmen, trees, polar bears and camels, warned delegates of the risks of climate change.

“Water me!” read a sign on a demonstrator dressed as a giant cactus.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

A second round of global climate talks is being held in Bonn from 1-12 June. The conference aims to make progress towards a new international climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. It is hoped that the new deal will be agreed in December in Copenhagen (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'The Road to Copenhagen'). 

The first such talks - the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bonn (29 March–8 April) - launched the negotiations for a draft agreement in view of the final conference (EURACTIV 09/04/09). The draft negotiating text ahead of this month's Bonn talks revealed a divide between rich and poor countries. 

Developing nations are asking their industrialised counterparts to commit to sizeable CO2 reductions and to offer financial aid to help poor nations in their efforts. But developed countries have not made any firm commitments on funding, and only the EU has taken on a firm CO2 reduction target, which nevertheless still fails to meet the developing world's demands (EURACTIV 29/04/09).

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