Climate talks ending with rich-poor rift wide open

Oct 09, 2009 by Marlowe Hood
Chinese cyclists passes through thick pollution from a factory. Two weeks of crucial UN climate talks were due to conclude after exposing huge rifts between rich and poor nations, just weeks ahead of the deadline for sealing a planet-saving global deal.

Two weeks of crucial UN climate talks were due to conclude Friday after exposing huge rifts between rich and poor nations, just weeks ahead of the deadline for sealing a planet-saving global deal.

Only five negotiating days remain, in November, before 192 nations converge for a critical December showdown in Copenhagen, where they have pledged to conclude a treaty to tackle global warming.

Without rapid action, scientists say, the world faces catastrophe in the form of drought, flooding, famine and forced migration.

"My feeling is that the ball, immediately, is in the developed country court to make it clearer what they are looking for," said Malta's Michael Cutajar, co-chair of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks.

A few minutes later at a separate press conference, US negotiator Jonathan Pershing countered, "I think the ball is in the court of all countries".

He highlighted a key demand from rich countries that emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil commit to binding actions on climate.

"We are at a critical stage with major issues unresolved," said Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based think-tank aligned with developing world positions.

"If there is no improvement in the divisions, the prospects are certainly not bright for an outcome in Copenhagen that is ambitious environmentally, and equitable from a social point of view," he said.

The key stumbling blocks are how to share out the job of slashing the heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and how much money wealthy nations will cough up to help developing ones fight climate change and cope with its impacts.

"At the end of the day, if you don't have ambitious (emissions) targets from rich nations, and if you don't have significant finance on the table, the whole thing falls apart," said Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official.

But even as Bangkok inched from procedure to substance, negotiators on both sides of the issues agreed the expert-level dialogue will remain blocked without strong input from world leaders between now and December.

"This is not the only game in town," said de Boer, referring to the UNFCCC, of which he is Executive Secretary.

Expectations are high for a second world leaders' summit on climate before Copenhagen, following a September gathering at the UN in New York, but no dates have been announced.

The looming question of how the United States will fit into any new agreement has dominated the Bangkok meeting, with Pershing making clear that Washington will never join the Kyoto Protocol.

Kyoto legally binds 37 industrialised countries to cut output by a total of more than five percent before 2012 compared to 1990 levels.

This forces the issue of whether to scrap Kyoto and fold some of its provisions into a new accord, or to expand its provisions for another five or seven years while cutting a separate deal for the US.

"A single instrument is more coherent, and for that reason is preferable," said Elliot Diringer, Vice President of the Washington-based Pew Center on Global .

But developing nations -- especially India and China -- expressed deep alarm in Bangkok at what they saw as a shift away from Kyoto toward a US proposal for a "bottom-up" approach, in which countries submit national plans to outside verification.

"The European Union, which was the most loyal to the Protocol up to now -- seems to be wavering. If they jump ship, Kyoto will be an empty shell," said Khor.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: MEPs back plans to slash use of plastic shopping bags

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate: What's to become of the Kyoto Protocol?

Oct 07, 2009

Whether to tweak, bolster or bury the Kyoto Protocol -- the only binding global agreement for curbing greenhouse gases -- has become a red-hot issue as UN negotiators in Bangkok try to lay the groundwork for ...

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 ...

Climate talks resume in Bangkok with deal in doubt

Sep 26, 2009

(AP) -- Two years ago, governments from around the world came together on the island of Bali and agreed to urgently rein in the heat-trapping gases blamed for deadly heat waves, melting glaciers and rising ...

US more optimistic about climate deal after talks

Apr 28, 2009

(AP) -- The top U.S. negotiator on climate change said Tuesday that he is slightly more optimistic about striking a new international agreement to curb global warming after a two-day meeting with the world's largest emitters ...

Japan: China must commit on global warming

Nov 06, 2006

Japan's chief negotiator at the Kyoto conference in Nairobi Monday called on China to let the United Nations know what it is doing about greenhouse gases.

Recommended for you

Researchers question emergency water treatment guidelines

16 hours ago

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) recommendations for treating water after a natural disaster or other emergencies call for more chlorine bleach than is necessary to kill disease-causing pathogens ...

European climate at the +2 C global warming threshold

18 hours ago

A global warming of 2 C relative to pre-industrial climate has been considered as a threshold which society should endeavor to remain below, in order to limit the dangerous effects of anthropogenic climate change.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
2 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2009
But developing nations -- especially India and China -- expressed deep alarm in Bangkok at what they saw as a shift away from Kyoto toward a US proposal for a "bottom-up" approach, in which countries submit national plans to outside verification.

Both China and India can't be considered non-industrialized nations (though because of the large populations they have a lower per-capita standard of living than Europe and North America.) They have large gaps between the richest and poorest segments of society. Another country with this gap is Mexico, with the highest number of billionaires around.

More news stories

Melting during cooling period

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

'Chief Yahoo' David Filo returns to board

Yahoo announced the nomination of three new board members, including company co-founder David Filo, who earned the nickname and formal job title of "Chief Yahoo."

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...