Climate Talks Resume Attempt to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions

BONN, Germany, June 1, 2010 (ENS) -? A new round of UN climate change negotiations opened here Monday with representatives of 182 governments attempting to set a framework for limits on greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst consequences of global warming.

The Bonn gathering is attended by more than 4,500 participants from governments, business, industry, environmental organizations and research institutions, and they are grappling with the same issues of commitment and trust that plagued the disappointing climate conference in Copenhagen last December.

The Copenhagen meeting may have postponed an outcome for at least a year, but it did not postpone the impacts of climate change,? said Yvo de Boer, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer (All photos courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

?”The deadline to agree an effective international response to climate change at Copenhagen was set because governments, when launching negotiations in Bali in 2007, recognized the scientific warning on climate for what it was – a siren call to act now, or face the worst,? de Boer said.

“Since Copenhagen, governments have repeatedly said they want to see progress, and now they will have to show it. In particular, they say they want to see a complete package of measures so all nations can take collective, effective climate change action against climate change on a global scale,” said de Boer, who will step down on July 1 after four years as top UN climate negotiator. He will be replaced by Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.

At Copenhagen, industrialized countries pledged $30 billion in aid in 2010-2012 to help developing nations start adapting to climate change.

But de Boer says developing nations are skeptical that the money will be forthcoming and doubt that it is new funding. De Boer called on industrialized countries to fulfill the financial pledge they made at Copenhagen so that the negotiations at Cancun will be successful.

From left: Bonn Mayor Juergen Nimptsch, Incoming UNFCCC head Christiana Figueres, and Yvo de Boer

Oxfam warned Monday that the $100 billion a year pledged by rich nations to help fight climate change could fail the poorest people, if recent moves to deliver climate cash as loans continue.

Oxfam says it is becoming clear that a significant proportion of the first installments of climate cash, to be delivered between 2010 and 2012 will be loans not grants.

“At a time of economic emergency, when several poor countries are slashing critical health and education budgets to avoid a debt crisis, rich countries are considering saddling them with climate debt for a situation they did not cause and are worst affected by,” said Oxfam policy advisor Antonio Hill.

?Cancun can only deliver if promises of help are kept and if promises to compromise are honored in the negotiations,? de Boer said.

Then, there is the issue of the Kyoto Protocol, the current regime for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. Governments must decide whether the new agreement covering the time period from 2013 forward will be an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, as many developing countries wish, or an entirely new agreement such as the Copenhagen Accord.

To date, 114 countries have agreed to the Copenhagen Accord, and an additional 16 countries have indicated to the UNFCCC that they intend to support it, bringing the total to 130, including countries emitting at least 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

The Copenhagen Accord aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) over pre-industrial times but does not set legally binding limits on emissions as the Kyoto Protocol does.

“I encourage governments to now develop greater clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, since this issue cannot be left unattended until Cancun,”? de Boer said.

Kyoto Protocol Working Group Chair John Ashe

The main item on the agenda of the Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol focuses on further commitments by industrialized countries already governed by the Kyoto Protocol, such as the European Union countries and Japan.

Kyoto Protocol Working Group Chair John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda appealed to government parties to enter into negotiations with “renewed vigor and goodwill” to determine their individual and aggregate greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Bonn meeting Chair Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe

Speaking for the African Group, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo decried some parties’ lack of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol’s future and asked for an opportunity to debate the Kyoto Protocol issue. The DRC is one of the countries that has agreed to the Copenhagen Accord.

The Bonn talks, which continue through June 11, are supposed to consider a draft text for the Cancun meeting to jumpstart negotiations.

But divisions appeared Monday when the United States, Latin American countries and South Africa said they could not launch negotiations on the basis of the draft text published in May by Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, who is chairing the Bonn talks.

Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation, called the draft “a constructive next step,” but really just an “effort to elicit views so she can develop a formal negotiating text.” Mukahanana-Sangarwe is expected to issue a revised draft on Saturday.

“Climate negotiations over the next two weeks will be on track if they keep focusing on a common way forward towards a concrete and realistic goal in Cancun,” said de Boer. “There is a growing consensus on what the goal for Cancun can be, namely, a full, operational architecture to implement effective and collective climate action.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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