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Climate change: Progress at polluters' talks, but obstacles ahead

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 18, 2008
Talks among major carbon emitters aimed at speeding negotiations towards a new pact on climate change ended Friday after making some headway but failing to remove roadblocks ahead of a summit in July.

"We achieved a consensus on the need for long-term and medium-term goals for reducing greenhouse-house gases... but we have not quantified targets at this stage and we regret this," said France's secretary of state for European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet.

The two-day talks in Paris gathered ministers from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.

The 16 economies account for around four-fifths of global output of greenhouse gases -- the carbon pollution, stemming mainly from fossil fuels, that traps heat from the Sun and is damaging Earth's climate system.

Launched by US President George W. Bush last September, the so-called Major Economies Meetings (MEMs) aim at fast-tracking negotiations towards a new UN pact on climate change by the end of 2009.

The process also looks at how to enlist smart technology and energy-intensive industries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

MEM leaders are to meet on the sidelines of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Toyako, Japan on July 7-9, and issue a declaration reflecting a "shared common vision," said Jouyet.

But there was discord over whether this horizon-scanning document should set a timetable and cap for global emissions.

"As a European, we would like to see the most quantified objectives possible, both in the medium and long term. There is a divergence with our American partners on this subject," said Jouyet.

"Discussions are continuing but there are no major breakthroughs," South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told AFP.

Developing countries opposed setting any long-term goal in Toyako that was too nebulous and lacked specific pledges from the United States on emissions, he said.

As a result, the summit declaration could be limited to a vaguer statement expressing goodwill and areas where progress can be made, he said.

Two more MEM meetings will be held before the summit, one in May the other in June, to try to hammer out the declaration.

The Paris meeting was given fresh reminders that huge financial resources must be mustered to tackle climate change.

A South African assessment found that between 30 and 60 billion dollars was needed annually as of now to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change. And 200 billion dollars was needed annually for reducing emissions.

Mexico floated an idea for a new "Multinational Climate Change Fund" gathering at least 10 billion dollars per year that would help promote the transfer of clean technologies to developing nations.

On the meeting's eve, Bush unveiled a new blueprint, based on incentives rather than on mandatory caps, that called for US emissions to peak by 2025. And he urged big developing countries to agree to concessions in a future deal.

This proposal by the world's No. 1 polluter was widely attacked as too little, too late.

Some blasted it as a step backwards to before last December's breakthrough agreement in Bali that launched the two-year UN negotiation process.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the meeting on Friday that global warming was becoming a driver of hunger, unrest and conflict.

He cited the nearly five-year-old war in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have died, as an example of how water scarcity and rivalry for farmland had helped spark bloodshed.

"In Darfur, we see this explosive mixture from the impact of climate change, which prompts emigration by increasingly impoverished people, which then has consequences in war," said Sarkozy.

"If we keep going down this path, climate change will encourage the immigration of people with nothing towards areas where the population do have something, and the Darfur crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others."

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Analysis: EU bashes Bush's climate plan
Berlin (UPI) Apr 21, 2008
U.S. President George W. Bush's policies to combat climate change have come under fire in Europe, with Germany's top energy policy official accusing the U.S. president of demonstrating "losership instead of leadership."

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