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Breakthrough sought at global climate talks

by Staff Writers
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Dec 9, 2007
Climate change campaigners called Sunday for greater effort in the fight against global warming, saying the world was waiting for a crunch UN conference in Bali to produce a breakthrough.

Prominent figures including Nobel-winning former US vice president Al Gore and UN chief Ban Ki-moon are due to arrive on the Indonesian resport island in the coming days as the climate change summit enters its crucial final week.

"The whole year has been pointing at the Bali process," said John Coequyt, a climate campaigner from Greenpeace.

"We have been here for a week now and there is not a lot of difference in discussion, tone and energy from previous summits. Things are going to have to change when ministers get here."

Government delegates from about 190 nations are here for the 11-day summit under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Their goal is to lay the groundwork for a new international initiative that will help combat the threat posed by climate change after the current phase of the existing treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.

Scientists earlier this year delivered their starkest warning yet -- that without action, global warming could have an irreversible impact on the world, bringing hunger, floods, drought and the extinction of many plants and animal species in its wake.

"I will say (to ministers), the world is waiting -- what is your political answer to what science is telling you?" said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC.

He has warned that the number of issues for ministers to discuss when they start meeting on Wednesday could clog up talks, and said countries should focus on finalising a timetable for further negotiations up to 2009, when they need to begin ratifying any agreement.

A key question is how much rich countries -- which leading experts say are historically responsible for most of the carbon emissions blamed for warming the planet -- should commit to slashing their output.

Europe and developing countries led by China want industrialised nations to set a binding target to cut such emissions by between 25 to 40 percent by 2020 over their 1990 levels.

Canada and Japan are reported to be in favour of fixed targets for booming economies like India and China as well, although de Boer said such a prospect was "inconceivable."

Delegates from impoverished nations want rich countries to increase funding and transfer technology that will help them adapt.

"It's important that the bigger countries show leadership and show moral obligation on this issue to set the stage for other countries to then come forward," said Angus Friday, chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.

Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will receive a warm welcome when he gets there Tuesday, after reversing his predecessor's policy and ratifying Kyoto in his first official act after being sworn in a week ago.

Still, he admitted there would be a lot of "horse-trading" to come.

"It means that you sit down with other governments and work out what's necessary for the planet, what's necessary for everyone to contribute, including Australia.

"Therefore, frankly, it would be irresponsible from that point of view to go out there and put a number on the table straight away," he said.

Most players are optimistic a broad consensus will be reached for the path ahead.

"I think the determination to get an agreement is still alive," said Angela Anderson, of the Washington-based National Environment Trust.

One delegate -- who did not wish to be named -- said an early draft of the Bali text contained figures on how much rich nations should cut emissions, but cautioned that United States and others could try to scratch them off.

Another issue set to feature prominently is protecting the world's forests, which act as a crucial storage mechanism for carbon dioxide.

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US, poor nations won't pledge binding cuts in Bali: UN
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Dec 7, 2007
A UN conference trying to lay the groundwork for a new climate change pact is unlikely to win any binding pledge by the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions, its head said Friday.

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