Diplomatic push mooted for Russia's climate deadlock

Jun 13, 2013 by Mariette Le Roux
European Commission climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger speaks on November 29, 2010 in Cancun. Europe on Thursday mooted a diplomatic push to persuade Russia to stop blocking a UN-appointed body tasked with laying vital groundwork for a global pact on climate change.

Europe on Thursday mooted a diplomatic push to persuade Russia to stop blocking a UN-appointed body tasked with laying vital groundwork for a global pact on climate change.

At talks in Bonn, Russia cited procedural objections to frustrate work in one of three bodies of the (UNFCCC) where the 2015 deal is being drafted.

The technical Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) threw in the towel on Tuesday, achieving nothing in the 12-day negotiating round which ends on Friday.

"In the coming months we will have to try and find a way forward," climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said on the sidelines of the beleaguered talks.

"We need to talk to these three proponents... to get them on board," he said, referring to Russia and its two allies, Belarus and Ukraine.

Moscow objects to the way the last big in Doha, Qatar, closed in December—the chairman gavelling through a deal in spite of Russia's objections.

The issue goes to the heart of the climate negotiating procedure, described by some delegates as a "grey zone" with decisions taken on the basis of consensus without a clear definition of what this entails.

The Doha deal extended the on curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but hamstrung Moscow's planned sale of 5.8 billion tonnes of amassed under the protocol's first round, which expired at the end of last year.

Asked who would take part in the drive to bring Russia back on board, Runge-Metzger listed the European Union, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Fiji and Singapore, as well as the SBI's Polish chairman and the UNFCCC secretariat.

"Everybody has an interest," he said, adding the talks would be informal and conducted on a senior official level, at least at first.

"Climate change is a problem, it doesn't go away. If the SBI doesn't adopt an agenda it doesn't mean that climate change is stopping. That is the big issue we need to address," said Runge-Metzger.

The Bonn gathering is meant to prepare for the November 11-22 annual UNFCCC meeting in Warsaw, which will climax at ministerial level.

The SBI was meant to start a discussion on a global mechanism to compensate countries which suffer -related loss and damage, as well as draft the next budget for the UNFCCC secretariat.

It was also meant to work on a review of whether the UN target of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels should be lowered to a safer 1.5 C (2.7 F).

Delegates hope the lost time can be made up in Warsaw but admit they have no assurances that Russia will have lifted its blockade by then.

While most delegates agree that Russia has a point on procedure, they are critical of the route it has taken.

"It is sad the SBI hasn't gone forward, it has huge implications for the issue of loss and damage," said Azeb Girmai, representing a group of least-developed countries.

"We are already losing our lives, homes and our livelihoods."

Work in the other two bodies went ahead, and negotiators said progress was being made.

The new deal, the most ambitious yet, must take effect by 2020 and will for the first time commit all the world's nations to curbing Earth-warming .

In Bonn, Europe suggested a hybrid system with elements from both a "bottoms-up" approach favoured by the United States in which nations determine their own limits, and a "top-down" system in which targets are imposed.

Under the European idea, nations would determine their own pledges but have these reviewed for adequacy by their peers before they are signed into the new, binding deal.

The talks have been "fruitful", said Runge-Metzger.

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