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Climate talks inch ahead on aid despite discord
by Staff Writers
Panama City (AFP) Oct 7, 2011

UN climate chief sees donors committed on aid
Panama City (AFP) Oct 7, 2011 - The UN climate chief said Friday that major donors remained committed to a $100 billion-a-year aid package for the poorest nations, despite the lack of detail on the source of funding.

Closing a week of talks in Panama City, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said negotiators made "good progress" ahead of a year-end conference in Durban, South Africa.

Figueres told reporters that the Panama talks had a "rough start" in Panama on long-term climate financing, with poor nations pushing for more clarity, but cited the issue as an area of growing agreement.

The conference "made clear progress on how efforts to limit emissions by developing countries will be matched with necessary support from developed countries in a transparent way," she said.

The developed countries said, ''Look, we're in a financial crisis right now but we do recognize that this is our long-term commitment. We're not shying away from the commitment,'" she said.

Wealthy economies -- namely the European Union, Japan and the United States -- pledged at the raucous 2009 summit in Copenhagen to commit $100 billion a year by 2020 to nations worst hit by climate change such as small islands.

But all three economies are facing economic woes. Japan -- the top donor in the short term -- is also coping with its tsunami disaster, while US President Barack Obama faces heated opposition from his Republican rivals on climate change.

Despite what Figueres said was progress on finance, major economies remain sharply divided on what to do on cuts in carbon emissions after the Kyoto Protocol's obligations run out at the end of 2012.

Climate negotiators said Friday they made progress on laying out ways to help poor countries but deep differences remained on core issues ahead of a make-or-break talks in South Africa.

With scientists warning that the planet is far behind on meeting pledges to control climate change, officials from around the world held a week of talks in Panama City to float ideas before the Durban conference opens on November 28.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that the talks made "good progress" and pointed to technical work on the shape of a Green Climate Fund that will assist the poorest nations seen as worst impacted by climate change.

Figueres acknowledged a "rough start" on the issue, as developing nations accused the United States and other major donors of blocking discussion on how to raise the $100 billion a year promised for the fund by 2020.

But a draft text produced in Panama City for governments' review reiterates the $100 billion figure and says most will come from public money. It leaves open the idea of a levy on airline and shipping emissions to raise revenue.

The Panama talks "made clear progress on how efforts to limit emissions by developing countries will be matched with necessary support from developed countries in a transparent way," Figueres said.

The developed countries said, ''Look, we're in a financial crisis right now but we do recognize that this is our long-term commitment. We're not shying away from the commitment,'" she told reporters.

Tim Gore of aid group Oxfam was also cautiously upbeat, saying: "We started the week with developed countries not wanting to talk about it and we've ended up with the basis for negotiations."

But there was no sign of a solution on a pressing issue -- what to do after 2012, when obligations run out for rich nations to cut carbon emissions which scientists warn spell dire consequences for the planet's health.

"You've got what seem to be irreconcilable differences and the question is whether there is some way forward that at least continues that conversation further down the road," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The European Union is the main champion of the Kyoto Protocol and is willing to pledge new post-2012 emissions cuts under the treaty to avoid any gap.

But Canada, Japan and Russia have refused to continue Kyoto and say that any future accord must all major economies including China, the world's largest carbon emitter, which in turn wants binding action from wealthy nations.

One way forward, according to the UN climate chief, would be for some nations make new pledges under Kyoto while other offer separate but clear commitments. "That is going to be the crux of Durban," Figueres said.

But the United States, where many of President Barack Obama's opponents question the science behind climate change, said the time was not right for a binding treaty. America rejected Kyoto, so the world's largest economy would have no obligations if there is a new round.

"We can only consider an agreement that applies with equal legal force to all the major economies -- by which we mean unconditional commitments, not commitments depending on funding," US negotiator Jonathan Pershing said.

The United States was committed to contributing to the $100 billion fund but wanted freedom to determine its own sources, such as private money, he added.

With parts of the European Union in a debt crisis, the bloc's climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said it was unrealistic for developing countries to expect money on the table before more clarity on how the aid fund will work.

"We are willing to talk about initial capitalization (to the fund) but I don't think that we can lead people up the garden path and say this money is going to be there in Durban," he said.

But negotiator Colin Beck of the Solomon Islands -- which like many low-lying nations fears that climate change threatens its survival -- pointed to last year's 110 billion-euro ($150 billion) EU-IMF bailout of Greece.

"If you look at the economic crisis, more money is being spent on Greece, one country alone, than for the long-term health of the planet," Beck said.

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EU greenhouse-gas emissions +2.4% in 2010: estimates
Paris (AFP) Oct 7, 2011 - The EU's greenhouse-gas emissions rose 2.4 percent in 2010 over 2009 following the financial crisis, but the bloc remains on track for meeting Kyoto Protocol targets, figures released on Friday said.

Early estimates of the 27 European Union (EU) economies, issued by the European Environment Agency (EAA), also showed that the 15 EU members which collectively signed up to Kyoto commitments saw an emissions rise of 2.3 percent year-on-year.

Greenhouse-gas emissions from Spain, Greece and Ireland decreased but there was a pickup of emissions from Britain and Germany.

Emissions by the EU-15 were 10.7 percent below the base level set for the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The 15 have a collective target of an eight-percent reduction for the period of 2008-2012 compared to 1990, putting that 2.7 percent ahead of the eight-percent goal.

However, Austria, Italy and Luxembourg were still lagging behind their Kyoto targets at the end of 2010.

The EU-27 do not have a collective commitment under Kyoto. Overall, their emissions were 15.5 percent lower than 1990 at the end of last year.

However, they have vowed to deepen this to at least 20 percent by 2020.

In 2009, EU-15 emissions fell by 6.9 percent over 2008, and those of the EU-27 by 7.1 percent.

The future of the Kyoto Protocol is under discussion at talks in the 194-party UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Protocol's current commitments, expiring at the end of 2012, require only advanced economies that have ratified the treaty to commit to legally binding curbs on carbon emissions.

Critics flaw Kyoto because these pledges do not apply to emerging giant economies, such as China, which is the world's No. 1 emitter, nor to the United States, the No. 2 emitter, which has refused to ratify the pact.

The EAA figures exclude the counting of forests.

Under controversial Kyoto rules, forests are "carbon sinks" considered to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, and thus can be offset against national emissions.

Official figures for 2010 emissions will be published at the end of May or early June next year, the Copenhagen-based agency added.


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Cloud hangs over climate finance
Panama City (AFP) Oct 6, 2011
An impasse in global climate talks is casting a shadow on clean energy financing in the developing world, with growing doubts over a program that has funded billions of dollars in projects. UN-led negotiations involving nearly 200 nations are struggling to come up with a framework after 2012, when wealthy countries' commitments to cut carbon emissions blamed for climate change run out under ... read more

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