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Ministers huddle in bid to jump-start climate talks

'Trust' lacking in stalled climate talks: Merkel, Calderon
Bonn (AFP) May 2, 2010 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel Sunday urged world environment ministers "to find a basis of trust" before the next UN meet in Cancun, recalling the near-collapse of the Copenhagen climate summit. "One thing that did not work well in Copenhagen is that a small circle met and the regional groups felt left out of the debate," she said as delegates from some 45 countries convened to breathe life into stalled climate talks. "A preparatory job before Cancun will be to find a basis of trust for all countries that will be present in Cancun so that no one feels left out," Merkel told the assembled ministers and negotiators. Many of the 194 nations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have not backed the Copenhagen Accord, complaining that it was hammered out at the last minute behind closed doors by a handful of powerful economies led by China and the United States.

The contested accord calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but does not share out responsibility for reaching that goal. Merkel pointed out that voluntary pledges currently registered in the accord put Earth on track for a 3.5 C or even a 4.0 C jump by 2100, far above the widely held threshold for dangerous warming. She also sought to allay fears that forums such as the so-called Petersberg Climate Dialogue -- unfolding over the next two days outside Bonn -- could clash with the UN talks. "There is no alternative to the UN process ... In the end all of this has to go into one UN process," she said. The two-and-a-half day meeting -- the highest-level climate gathering since the December fiasco -- was jointly launched by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who will host the UN conference in Cancun starting in late November.

Calderon likewise emphasised the need for building trust, especially in the issue of finance for poor countries bracing for the ravages of global warming. The Copenhagen Accord called for 30 billion dollars up to the end of 2012, to be scaled up to 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. "This atmosphere of trust is something we really need to make use of for the 'fast track' financing," he told the ministers Sunday evening. "2010 is the year when we need to take action." Just how hard that may be was laid bare in Bonn only weeks ago at the first meeting since Copenhagen of the UNFCCC, the main vehicle for global talks. The only thing that the negotiators seemed to agree on was that the session was tense and riven by suspicion. Also on Sunday, German environment Norbert Roettgen said the European Union should unilaterally raise its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 20 to 30 percent by 2020.

"The EU has to push to 30 percent to create confidence -- it's one way to create credibility with the developed countries," said Switzerland's top climate negotiator, Jose Romero. The Petersberg talks in Bonn appear designed to sidestep some of the biggest political landmines that derailed Copenhagen, focusing instead on narrower issues where some progress has been made such as technology cooperation, verification regimes and fighting deforestation. "The politics of getting a full-blown treaty are still very divided," said Alden Meyer, a climate policy analyst at the Washington-based Union for Concerned Scientists. Industrialised countries bound by the Kyoto Protocol to slash their carbon pollution say emerging giants such as China and India must take on binding, if lesser, commitments too.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 30, 2010
More than three dozen environment ministers are to meet near Bonn, Germany this weekend in a bid to revive global climate talks left mangled and moribund after the UN summit in Copenhagen.

It will be the highest-level political meeting on climate since the much-criticised December conference fell spectacularly short of delivering the binding treaty that nearly all nations say is needed to spare the planet from the worst ravages of global warming.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, host to the next UN conference in Cancun at year's end, will kick things off late Sunday, setting the tone for the two-and-a-half-day closed-door brainstorming session.

"It is the return of the ministers, who are there to give political guidance to (technical) negotiators," said Brice Lalonde, France's climate ambassador. "What counts at this point is political initiative."

One avowed aim of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue -- named for the castle where it is to be held -- is confidence building.

Climate talks so far have been "hampered by lack of trust and leadership," German Environment Minister Norbert Rottgen said bluntly in the letter of invitation.

The upcoming deliberations, he added, should "contribute to the necessary inspiration and political direction for upcoming negotiations."

Just how hard that may be was laid bare in Bonn only weeks ago at the first meeting since Copenhagen of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main vehicle for global talks.

The only thing that the negotiators seemed to agree on was that the session was tense and riven by mistrust.

"If we see another failure in Cancun, that will cause a serious loss of confidence in the ability of this process to deliver," the UNFCCC's outgoing Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, warned at the time.

The Petersberg talks appear designed to sidestep some of the biggest political landmines that derailed Copenhagen, focusing instead on narrower issues where at least some progress has been made such as technology cooperation, verification regimes and fighting deforestation.

"But the question is, can you get incremental progress on some of these 'building block' issues without a full-blown deal on a new treaty," said Alden Meyer, a climate policy analyst at the Washington-based Union for Concerned Scientists.

One of the potential deal-breakers in the long run is a disagreement between the United States and China -- the world's two major carbon polluters -- on how to divvy out the job of slashing CO2 emissions, and whether both countries should face the same legal constraints.

"Washington says that any legal instrument it takes part in must have the same degree of 'bindingness' for China as it has for the US, which China clearly rejects," Meyer said.

Developing countries argue they are not historically responsible for climate change, and thus should be allowed to take purely voluntary steps to help fix it.

Japan and Russia, meanwhile, have become more vocal in saying they will not re-commit to cutting greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol unless both the United States and the developing giants such as China and India accept some kind of commitments too.

The United States was the only advanced economy to reject Kyoto, whose obligations expire at the end of 2012, calling it unfair because it made no demands of major emerging economies.

The fate of the Protocol -- fiercely defended by developing countries -- is as contentious as it is unclear.

One way to avoid failure at Cancun may be simply to lower expectations.

Indeed, all the major players seem to have given up on the goal of a legally binding treaty by year's end that would spell out the path for reducing emissions enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the target embraced by the 11th-hour Copenhagen Accord.

Voluntary pledges currently registered in the Accord put Earth on track for a 3.5 C or even a 4.0 C world by 2100, far above the threshold for dangerous warming, said Alden.

A binding outcome this year is "unfortunately" unlikely, Europe's Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said earlier this month, while US chief negotiator Todd Stern last week cautioned that expectations for Cancun must be "realistic."

And on Sunday, the so-called BASIC group of developing economies -- China, India, Brazil and South Africa -- said in a joint statement that a legally binding deal should be concluded at the December 2011 UN climate meeting in South Africa "at the latest".




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Study Gives Green Light To Plants' Role In Global Warming
Edinburgh, UK (SPX) Apr 30, 2010
Plants remain an effective way of tackling global warming despite emitting small amounts of an important greenhouse gas, a study has shown. Research led by the University of Edinburgh suggests that plant leaves account for less than one per cent of the Earth's emissions of methane -which is considered to be about 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at global warming. The resu ... read more

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