New York (UPI) Sep 21, 2010
India's environment minister painted a pessimistic picture of the December U.N. climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico.
"I think frankly Cancun is headed nowhere because the financial commitments made by the developed countries at Copenhagen have not been fulfilled and are unlikely to be fulfilled in any substantial measure," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Press Trust of India on the sidelines of the Major Economies Forum meeting in New York Monday.
Delegates from around the world met last December in Copenhagen, Denmark, to draft a treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol but failed to reach a comprehensive global agreement. The interim agreement, known as the Copenhagen Accord, included establishing a "fast start" fund to provide $30 billion from 2010-12 for assistance to developing countries in addressing climate change.
The United Nations will try again to achieve an agreement during the next Cancun summit.
"I don't expect a breakthrough but I don't expect a breakdown either," Ramesh said, adding that expectations for Cancun should be "very, very modest."
Because its political and economic situation "is not in the most stable condition," he said, the United States isn't in a position to play a leadership role in tackling climate change.
The minister noted that discussions about the Cancun conference during the MEF were "circuitous."
"The Europeans will not do anything until the Americans do something ... the Americans will not do anything until the Chinese do something ... and we go round the merry-go-round," he said.
Other countries attending the two-day MEF meeting are Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. The European Union is also in attendance.
The top U.N. climate official, Christiana Figueres, during a visit to India earlier this month, acknowledged that a "trust deficit" had plagued last December's Copenhagen summit, as small groups of nations said they were ignored during the negotiations.
She tried to assure India that there would be improvements in the Cancun meeting.
"Lessons have been learned" from Copenhagen, and there would be a "definite" commitment to trust and transparency in Cancun, said Figueres, who was appointed to the post of executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Conventions on Climate Change in July.
But Ramesh is already looking beyond Cancun.
"Clearly now the focus is on post-Cancun ... we recognize that there is no breakthrough possible in Cancun but let's now try to cut our losses and see what we can do after Cancun," Ramesh said Monday.
earlier related report
The two-day Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate kicked off Monday with top government envoys, including US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern.
US President Barack Obama launched the meetings to facilitate climate talks in the wake of last year's disappointing UN conference in Copenhagen.
"There's ongoing efforts to make sure that countries are living up to the commitments made last year," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, referring to the meetings that began here Monday.
The successor conference to the Copenhagen meet is set for this November in Cancun, Mexico.
Michael Levi, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, said "I don't think anyone is expecting any major announcement."
"This is a working meeting... a lot of important players are at the same place at the same time" during the United Nations General Assembly, he told AFP.
Levi said the envoys would not seek to resolve the fierce debate over climate change but rather find ways to better define the issues, acknowledging the Cancun meeting would likely be another stalemate.
"No one is going to crack a big deal at this," he added.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, said the US Congress's failure to pass a law to combat climate change made it "very difficult" to clinch a strong agreement in Cancun.
"I think that the next two years will be a disappointing time in terms of actions and that we will have to use that time to build a powerful movement to get real action the next time there will be a political window that opens up," he added.
Levi warned that a period of uncertainty could follow the November mid-term legislative elections in the United States in which Republicans are poised to retake control of the House of Representatives from Obama's fellow Democrats and to increase their numbers in the Senate.
Last June, the House approved a bill that would launch the country's first nationwide "cap-and-trade" system that restricts carbon emissions blamed for global warming and allows trading in credits.
The Senate has yet to offer companion legislation, amid opposition from Republicans and Democrats from states dependent on the coal and hydrocarbon industries.
"Real change contradicts the business model of the fossil fuel industry," McKibben said, saying the industry was too powerful for Congress to effectively tackle reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He urged more global action to create a "mass movement" in support of cutting emissions.
In October 2009, his 350.org organized a major day of political action, with 5,245 protests and other events across 181 countries.
Environment ministers from 45 countries are also scheduled to meet in Geneva in September at the invitation of the Swiss and Mexican governments.
And negotiators from the 194 signatories to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change are to meet in Tianjin, China for a final preparatory round of talks in October.
The New York talks include representatives from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States.
Crowley said Stern took part in talks in New York involving US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa. Stern also joined Clinton's talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
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