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UN climate chief spurs talks on new global warming pact

by Staff Writers
Bonn (AFP) June 12, 2008
UN climate chief Yvo de Boer called on industrialised countries on Thursday to start showing some of their cards in a slow-paced poker game whose prize is a new pact to tackle global warming.

De Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said talks unfolding among senior officials here marked "the first time that people are getting down to serious negotiations" for a historic deal in Copenhagen in December next year.

But, he warned, many positions had so far been "incredibly generic" and this problem of vagueness among industrialised countries was especially worrying.

The June 3-13 Bonn talks should issue "a very clear call on governments to start submitting their ideas on what should be the key elements of a Copenhagen outcome," said de Boer.

He warned: "Politically, if Copenhagen fails we would be in huge trouble. I think that people would then begin to question the utility of this process."

Last December, parties to the UNFCCC set down a "Bali Roadmap" of talks designed to climax in the most ambitious and complex environmental treaty ever attempted.

The post-2012 pact would succeed the current pledges made under the UNFCCC's cornerstone accord, the Kyoto Protocol.

It would commit countries to deeper curbs on the heat-trapping gases that are driving climate change.

And it would beef up the transfer of clean technology to poorer economies and strengthen financial support for those countries most at risk from water stress, rising sea levels and other damage.

The green group WWF cautioned on Thursday that "only" 536 days remained until Copenhagen.

"The ideas put on the table are only (being) translated into shopping lists rather than blueprints for negotiations," it said.

WWF urged Japan, as host of next month's summit in Hokkaido, gathering the Group of Eight (G8) and the five major economies of the developing world, to give the flagging process a boost.

Looking at specifics, de Boer said developing countries were still awaiting a signal from industrialised economies about what they intended to put on the table, especially "the critical ingredient" of money.

According to UNFCCC figures, 150 billion euros -- more than 200 billion dollars -- will have to be mustered each year by 2030.

One potential cash cow is the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), under which rich countries help environmentally-friendly projects in poor countries, in such fields as cleaner energy and waste handling.

The carbon pollution averted through the scheme is transformed into credits that can be sold or deducted from the rich country's emissions quota under Kyoto.

A levy of two percent is applied to the CDM to help mobilise resources for developing countries.

A total of 1,081 CDM projects worth 13 billion dollars have been registered in 49 countries, with the potential to avert 152 million tonnes of carbon pollution by 2012.

On present trends, the two-percent levy should provide between 10 and 50 million dollars a year in resources by 2012.

But this income could rise to "some 100 billion dollars annually" if, for the post-2012 period, industrialised countries agree to reduce their emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050, de Boer said.

He described this as a "back-of-an-envelope calculation" based on a price for carbon dioxide (CO2) that stays above 10 dollars per tonne. On Friday, CO2 was changing hands in the EU's emissions trading system at 27.5 euros (around 40 dollars) a tonne.

Scientists say time is running out for avoiding lasting damage to the climate system.

Under one scenario sketched last year by the UN's Nobel-winning expert group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), industrialised nations would have to slash their emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 compared to the 1990 level to help peg warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

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