Climate: US call for 'flexibility' on warming spurs row

Aug 08, 2012
The US climate change envoy Todd Stern, pictured in 2011, said recently that climate negotiations had to avoid a rigid format that prompted nations to defend their own interests and avoid painful curbs.

The United States ran into crossfire on Wednesday after it called for "flexibility" in climate talks, even if this approach could not guarantee meeting the UN's target on global warming.

Europe demanded that the two-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) objective set at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 be honoured while small accused Washington of dangerous backsliding.

The skirmishes came ahead of a new talks for a to roll back greenhouse-gas emissions which stoke atmospheric warming and damage Earth's fragile .

In a barely-noticed speech in New Hampshire on August 2, chief US negotiator Todd Stern said negotiations had to avoid a rigid format that prompted nations to defend their own interests and avoid painful curbs.

He called for a "flexible" approach which would not only be easier to negotiate but also encourage deeper cuts in the long run.

"This kind of flexible, evolving legal agreement cannot guarantee that we meet a two-degree goal," Stern acknowledged. "But insisting on a structure that WOULD guarantee such a goal will only lead to deadlock."

Stern's speech met with a hostile response from two major parties in the climate parlay.

"World leaders pledged in Copenhagen to stay below the 2C (3.6 F) temperature increase. What leaders promised must now be delivered," European Commission climate spokesman Isaac Valero Ladron said.

"Consolidated science continues to remind us of the dire consequences of going beyond such a ... Time is of the essence here."

Marlene Moses, chair of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), said Stern's speech "follows a well-established pattern of the United States lowering ambition at the .

"But it is particularly disturbing, coming as it does in the midst of one of the worst in the country's history," Moses told AFP.

"If the US is prepared to abandon its own farmers, how are we supposed to believe it will do what is necessary to save small islands from sea-level rise and other devastating impacts?"

AOSIS, gathering low-lying nations in the Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean, is campaigning for warming to be limited to just 1.5 C (2.7 F), a goal that could only be achieved with far tougher emissions caps than most states currently accept.

Earth's atmosphere has already warmed by at least 0.8 C (1.44 F) since the Industrial Revolution, reducing ice and snow cover, accelerating glacier melt and affecting reproduction and migration in many species, scientists say.

At present, Earth is on track for warming of 3-4 C (5.4-7.2 F) by century's end, they say.

Campaigners on poverty alleviation accused President Barack Obama of retreating on a that he himself had set in Copenhagen, where the figure was reached in chaotic scenes by a small number of world leaders.

"Now, immediately before an election, he is walking away from his own weak policies. This backflip with a twist would win a gold medal at the hypocrisy Olympics," said Christian Aid's climate specialist, Mohamed Adow.

Addressing such criticism, the State Department quoted Stern as saying the "continues to support" the 2C goal.

"We have not changed our policy," Stern said in this clarification. "My point in the speech was that insisting on an approach that would purport to guarantee such a goal -- essentially by dividing up carbon rights to the atmosphere -- will only lead to stalemate."

The next round of talks under the UN Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC) run in Bangkok from August 30 to September 5.

They are the last scheduled negotiations under the 195-party UNFCCC ahead of its major year-end gathering, taking place in Doha, Qatar, from November 26-December 7.

Explore further: Drought may take toll on Congo rainforest, study finds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Next round of UN climate talks set for Bangkok

Jun 01, 2012

A new round of climate talks will be held in Bangkok from August 30 to September 5 to prepare for minister-level negotiations at year end, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said on Friday.

UN: Canada still obliged to fight climate change

Dec 13, 2011

The UN climate chief on Tuesday voiced regret over Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and said that the country still had legal obligations to work against global warming.

2C warming goal now 'optimistic' - French scientists

Feb 09, 2012

French scientists unveiling new estimates for global warming said on Thursday the 2 C (3.6 F) goal enshrined by the United Nations was "the most optimistic" scenario left for greenhouse-gas emissions.

US in spotlight as UN climate talks resume

Mar 29, 2009

UN talks tasked with forging a global climate treaty by year's end were set to resume here on Sunday, with all eyes on the debut appearance of US negotiators from the administration of US President Barack ...

Draft Copenhagen deal targets maximum 2 C warming

Dec 11, 2009

The first official draft blueprint for a deal at the UN climate talks sees targets of limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius (2.7 or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a document seen by ...

Recommended for you

Drought may take toll on Congo rainforest, study finds

13 hours ago

( —A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2012
It's pretty disheartening to hear these guys going back and forth like a more polite version of physorg posters...and accomplishing about as much.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2012
Just let the US do whatever they want but fully embargo their goods until they comply.
It's what they do to others - so why not try it their way?
5 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2012
Just let the US do whatever they want but fully embargo their goods until they comply.
It's what they do to others - so why not try it their way?

Because they pump 600 billion dollars a year into getting things their own way.....

More news stories

On global warming, settled science and George Brandis

The Australian Attorney General, Senator George Brandis is no stranger to controversy. His statement in parliament that "people do have a right to be bigots" rapidly gained him notoriety, and it isn't hard to understand why ...

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.