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Climate talks: Proposals proliferate as clock ticks

by Staff Writers
Bonn, Germany (AFP) June 12, 2009
New talks on building a treaty to tackle climate change headed for a close here Friday after a negotiation blueprint ballooned into a forest of rival proposals, leaving only six months on the clock to seal a deal.

Delegates saw little common ground in the 12-day talks held under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but some remained upbeat the historic pact would emerge on schedule in Copenhagen in December.

A 50-page draft negotiation text grew to more than 200 pages by Friday, generating a phonebook-sized compilation of overlapping or competing proposals and creating an unprecedented task in haggling over the coming months.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, though, insisted that clarity and purpose had now emerged, even if a difficult road lay ahead.

"This session has made clear what governments want to see in a Copenhagen agreement, it shows that they are committed to reaching an agreement, and this is a big achievement," de Boer told a press conference.

"Yes, there is no question that industrialised countries must raise their sights higher in terms of mid-term emission cuts, and yes, time is short but we still have enough time."

The planned treaty, due to take effect from 2013 after pledges of the Kyoto Protocol run out, will shape planetary action up to the middle of the century.

The big issues are who should pledge to cut their emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases and when, and how to channel money and technology to poor countries to cope with climate change and switch to low-carbon energy.

Compared with previous sessions, "the attitudes have been more constructive but the level of ambition is lower," France's climate ambassador, Brice Lalonde told AFP.

"Everybody knows that global emissions have to be halved by 2050 [compared with 1990 levels], which implies that industrialised countries reduce theirs by 80 percent. And everyone knows that emissions by developing countries have to start falling by 2025 at the latest," he said. "But nobody's signing up."

Rich countries -- historically most to blame for today's problems -- are being told by poor nations to make deep emissions cuts, mostly in the range of 25-40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. Some nations, including China, have said 40 percent must be a minimum.

But within industrialised nations, a gulf has emerged between the European Union (EU), which has offered a cut of at least 20 percent over 1990, and Japan and the United States, which would make reductions of around eight percent or four percent respectively, under announced plans or draft legislation.

The emerging giants are under pressure to come up with detailed commitments as to what they intend to do to bring their fast-growing pollution under control.

China, India, Brazil and others have refused to sign up to binding emissions targets, saying this will hamper their rise out of poverty.

They say they are willing to take other measures that would slow their likely growth in emissions, but they have not spelt out what these would be and tie such action to help from the West.

Seeking to bridge the gap, the United States put forward a proposal in Bonn under which developing countries would spell out what actions they would take.

They would be legally bound to take the action, but the outcome of this action would not be binding -- they would not be penalised if the goals were not met.

"We expect that would in fact satisfy [the US] Congress, so long as the actions were measurable and as long as there is comparability of the level of effort both from China and other parties, including the United States," said Jonathan Pershing, the chief US negotiator.

Green groups described the talks as deadlocked.

"Climate delegates finally agreed -- only that they disagreed," said WWF, while the US Nature Conservancy complained: "The text is too long and the pace is too slow to get us to a deal in Copenhagen."

But Michael Zammit Cutajar, chairing one of the two big negotiation groups, disagreed, contending that breakthroughs traditionally come in the very final days or hours of haggling.

"This is like the evolutionary process in reverse. The Big Bang comes at the end," he said.

Three more rounds are left under the UNFCCC banner before Copenhagen, but there are also a range of meetings among major emitters, at the Group of Eight (G8) and at a reported UN climate summit in New York in September that intend to give a political push.

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US expects China to cut emissions after a 'peak year'
Washington (AFP) June 12, 2009
The United States wants China to accept slow increases in its greenhouse gas emissions until it hits a "peak year," beyond which a real decrease must occur, US negotiator Todd Stern said Friday. Stern, briefing reporters following a trip to China, said he believed the Chinese authorities have taken "on board" the concept of a peak year for carbon gases that cause climate change but have not ... read more







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