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Plodding climate talks stepping up to higher level

Plodding climate talks stepping up to higher level

Environment ministers from around the world began flying in Saturday for the final days of the annual two-week climate conference, hoping to put new life in the slow-moving U.N. talks on ways to combat global warming.
In closed-door sessions last week, working groups from among the 193 nations at the U.N. climate treaty sought to whittle down the contested texts of proposed decisions for the ministers' final approval next Friday.
"What needs to happen here is that countries need to find compromises that will make everybody equally uncomfortable or equally comfortable," said Christiana Figueres, U.N. climate chief.
In one sign of the work facing them, only 170 words were undisputed among the 1,300 on two pages of a key text on the "shared vision" of what the treaty nations want to accomplish. The disputed language was options proposed by various parties and placed within brackets.
Some parties, for example, want the world to reduce emissions of global warming gases so that temperatures don't rise more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels, beyond which scientists say serious damage from climate change would set in. Others want to aim even lower, at 1.5 C (2.7 F) above preindustrial levels _ a position favored by island states and others most threatened by warming's impacts, such as sea-level rise.
The issue of reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by industry, vehicles and agriculture is the core dispute of the long-running climate talks, and will not be fully resolved at Cancun.
For 13 years, the U.S. has refused to join the rest of the industrialized world in the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 add-on to the climate treaty that mandates modest emissions reductions by richer nations. The U.S. complained that it would hurt its economy and that Kyoto should have mandated actions as well by such emerging economies as China and India.
For their part those poorer but growing nations have rejected calls that they submit to Kyoto-style legally binding commitments _ not to reduce emissions, but to cut back on emissions growth.
This impasse brought last year's climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, to near-collapse. That conference ended with a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord," under which the U.S., China and other nations inscribed voluntary pledges to scale back emissions. The agreement has been endorsed by 140 nations, not the treaty's full 193.
Two debates under way in Cancun stem from Copenhagen: how to "anchor" those voluntary pledges more officially under the treaty, and how to monitor and verify the pledges are being met.
Negotiators hope for agreements on some secondary issues as well: setting up a "green fund" to disburse aid to poorer countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change; making it cheaper for developing nations to obtain climate-friendly proprietary technology from more advanced countries; and pinning down more elements of a complex plan to pay developing countries for protecting their tropical forests.
Firmly establishing a green fund at Cancun is a priority for developing-world delegations. In the Copenhagen Accord, richer nations promised them $100 billion a year in such support by 2020.
"We need clarity and detail on the setting up of the global climate fund _ clarity on the composition of its board and on its relationship to the United Nations," Sol Oyuela of Christian Aid said Saturday, speaking on behalf of a coalition of climate and development advocacy groups.
Developing nations generally want a U.N. body overseeing disbursement of climate funds, rather than, for example, the World Bank, which is controlled by developed nations.
Echoing the sentiments of many here, veteran Brazilian climate negotiator Sergio Serra said Saturday the Cancun conference of parties, or "COP," must produce such concrete advances, or undermine the U.N. negotiating process.
After Copenhagen, he said, "if we have two COPs in a row with the same kind of no results, we're putting at risk the whole multilateral exercise of negotiation on climate change, and this is very bad, because I don't see alternatives."
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Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-26 17:07 GMT+08:00