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Bonn (AFP) May 23, 2012
Europe warned at climate talks in Bonn on Wednesday that efforts to forge a new global pact to avert environmental disaster were in danger of floundering, and some pointed fingers at China.
Nine days into talks meant to set the stage for a United Nations gathering in Qatar in December where countries must set new targets for curbing Earth-warming gas emissions, negotiators said procedural bickering was quashing progress hopes.
With only two days left in this negotiating round, the parties have failed to agree on an agenda for a newly established body dubbed the ADP tasked with overseeing the drafting of a new all-encompassing pact by 2015.
And in a further sign of trouble, elections were called late Wednesday for the ADP's top officers after several days of meetings failed to yield a consensus candidate.
The secret ballot to be held Thursday if no last-minute agreement is reached, will mark the first time in the 20-year history of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change environment treaty that a lack of consensus on a chairmanship forces a vote.
"If this slow pace of negotiations continues... it poses the risk of unraveling the Durban package," Danish chief negotiator Christian Pilgaard Zinglersen warned on behalf of the European Union.
He was referring to an agreement reached in South Africa last year to bind all countries under a new pact from 2020 to curb Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, not just developed nations as is the case now.
Pilgaard told the Bonn gathering that some parties, which he did not name, wanted to rehash issues that have already been settled.
"We are very concerned that the spirit of cooperation that prevailed in Durban has not carried over into this session," the diplomat said in a prepared speech.
French climate ambassador Serge Lepeltier said that China specifically "gives the impression of having hardened its positions since Durban".
And Wael Hmaidan, director of activist group Climate Action Network, said China was "blocking the ADP" out of fear that rich nations were trying to shift more of the emissions curbing burden onto poorer states than was historically fair.
"Since the ADP has no firewall between developed and developing countries, that means they will have the same kind of commitments as developed countries under the ADP," said Hmaidan, who is himself taking part in the talks.
"This is where the fight is."
Late Wednesday, a message was broadcast on television screens at the conference venue that "following unsuccessful consultations among regional groups, the ADP will be invited to elect its officers" on Thursday.
A document on the UNFCCC website said talks to choose the officers by consensus "fell apart" and "the only avenue left is an election".
Delegates told AFP that part of the bickering arose from small island states supporting a candidate from Trinidad and Tobago put forward by Latin America rather than the Indian candidate suggested by its own Asian bloc.
As countries bicker, researchers recently predicted Earth's temperature rising by as much as five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, instead of the 2 C (3.6 F) limit being targeted.
While rich nations bear most of the historical responsibility for global warming, their place is being taken by emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil which emit massive amounts of carbon in their rapid development.
These countries will also have to meet emissions curb under a new deal, but some are reticent for fear the restrictions may slow down their economic growth machines.
The Kyoto protocol's first roster of pledges expires at the end of the year, and an amended version must be adopted in Qatar to regulate emissions curbs until 2020.
But Zinglersen said Wednesday: "We are very concerned that success in Doha is currently far from certain. With only two days left in Bonn we have made very little progress on a number of key issues."
The United States had never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, while Russia and Japan have said they did not intend to sign up from next year. Australia and New Zealand have not confirmed their positions, while Canada withdrew from the protocol last year.
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