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Angry words as timetable for climate deal starts to slip

by Staff Writers
Barcelona, Spain (AFP) Nov 5, 2009
Green groups and activists for the developing world on Thursday accused rich nations of tiptoeing away from vows to seal a binding, far-reaching UN treaty on climate change in Copenhagen next month.

Their bitter response came after European Union (EU) negotiators in Barcelona spelt out the likelihood that the much-trumpeted pact would be concluded in 2010, not at the December 7-18 meeting as planned.

The talks, launched under a two-year "road map" in Bali, call for a global accord to curb emissions of heat-trapping carbon gases beyond 2012 and channel funds to poor countries most threatened by drought, floods, storms and rising seas.

But, with little more than a month to go, delegates at the week-long talks in the Catalonian capital admitted to poor progress and the prospect of a delay.

"People are talking more and more about a framework, a framework (in Copenhagen) that then you could specify further in the following months," said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission's chief negotiator, told reporters.

If so, "I think it should be done as early as possible," he said. "Normally, 'as early as possible' in the context of international conventions is something three months, six months, you need to allow that time."

He said states could still start implementing "fast track" measures as soon as January 2010 that would help to mitigate global warming and help poor, vulnerable countries.

"If it's impossible to reach an outcome in Copenhagen, we have to make the effort to adopt a legally binding instrument as soon as possible thereafter," said Alicia Montalbo, chief negotiator for Spain, which is the EU's next president.

She made a veiled criticism of the United States, which is sidestepping demands to show its hand on emissions curbs while a climate bill is wending its way through Congress.

"There's a certain level of frustration (in the EU) in seeing that not all countries share this vision," she said.

Antonio Hill of Oxfam International blasted advanced economies for "backsliding."

"There's no question: they're trying to get a get-out-of-jail card," he told AFP, referring to a tactic used in the board game Monopoly.

It was still possible to get a strong, ambitious deal, Hill said.

"It is a political decision now. Negotiators are perfectly capable of drawing up what needs to be agreed," he said.

Greenpeace climate policy director Martin Kaiser said US "intransigence (is) threatening to kill the prospect of a legally binding Copenhagen treaty."

"What's unfolding today is being driven by America, which in turn is being steered by big fossil-fuel interests," he said. "Now is the time for Europe -- Sarkozy, Merkel, Brown -- to stand up, not give up."

WWF's Kim Carstensen said it had been "known for a long time" that there would not be a fully-fledged treaty in Copenhagen.

Even so, negotiators must flesh out details of proposed emissions curbs by industrialised countries and "clarify the final form of the agreement, what will be the final product and if it will be a legally binding treaty," he said.

Environmentalists are worried that a purely political agreement in Copenhagen will lack clout.

It may not be enough to force the 192 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) into making sacrifices that will truly tame global warming, they say.

They also fret about the legal form of the putative agreement.

Their worry is that the tough compliance provisions of the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, whose current pledging round expires at the end of 2012, will be ditched in favour of a voluntary approach to accommodate the United States.

In Washington on Tuesday, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said Copenhagen could yield a framework deal that could be finalised in Mexico City in December 2010.

But, he said, "I think it is important not to give up before, because if we start... now to speak about Plan B in Copenhagen we'll probably end in Plan F for failure."

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UN chief praises EU 'leadership' on climate change
Athens (AFP) Nov 5, 2009
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon praised the European Union Thursday for its "leadership" in offering financial aid to poorer countries to tackle global warming. "I commend the EU's leadership role in addressing climate change and I am encouraged by the recent EU summit meeting where leaders had detailed discussions on a climate financing package," Ban told Greek lawmakers during a visit to ... read more

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