Building blocks missing for 2015 climate pact

June 7, 2014 by Richard Ingham
Government representatives of 195 countries attend the UN climate change conference in Bonn, western Germany on June 6, 2014

The clock is ticking for countries to lay the foundations of a 2015 deal to tackle dangerous climate change, ministers warned in Bonn on Friday.

A special UN summit in September, followed by a round of talks in Lima in December, must lay the first bricks of a highly complex accord due to be sealed in Paris in December 2015, they said.

China's top negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, pointed to traumatic memories of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, the last time countries tried to forge a worldwide deal on curbing Earth-warming .

The much-touted event became a near-fiasco when heads of state were confronted with a sprawling, fiercely-contested draft agreement at the last minute.

"We hope we do not see a recurrence of the Copenhagen scenario... (with) a final agreement that is accepted by some parties but not accepted by others," Xie said.

Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who will chair the December 1-12 meeting, urged colleagues gathered for an interim round of negotiations in Bonn since Wednesday to "commit to commit".

"This train is moving and we cannot wait until Paris to get onboard," he said.

The Paris agreement is meant to set the cap on years of haggling among the 195 parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Taking effect from 2020, the pact must curb heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels that are damaging Earth's fragile climate, amplifying risks from drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Negotiators hope that, at the very least, the Lima deal will agree on rules for vetting and comparing national pledges that will form the core of the pact.

Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China and head of Chinese delegation Xie Zhenhua speaks during a press conference in Durban on December 5, 2011

Assessing the promises

The pledges will be a disparate mix of promises to curb emissions, bolster climate defences, boost funds for vulnerable countries and transfer cleaner technology to the developing world.

There is a big technical challenge in ensuring that individual national efforts are verifiable and comparable, to avoid accusations that some countries are getting a free ride.

The pact's legal status—whether it should be legally binding or not, and what the term actually means—is also not settled. The United States, for one, has ruled out a format similar to the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, which has a tough and legally-enforceable compliance mechanism.

Xie said priority should be given to the content of the pledges, rather than the legal architecture. China would go along with the consensus, he said.

He stressed that a key to success in Lima, and then in Paris, lay in developed countries showing good faith in their pledges to act on before 2020.

This includes a promise made in Copenhagen to channel up to $100 billion a year in aid by that time.

"Unfortunately we are seeing very little of the finance that was pledged," said Ugandan Environment Minister Ephraim Kamuntu, representing the world's bloc of least-developed countries.

The 12-day session in Bonn included two ministerial-level sessions meant to give a political boost to the troubled process.

Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican diplomat and executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change poses with a Tesla S 85 premium electric car at the UN Mobility Solutions Fair in Bonn, western Germany on June 6, 2014

Ministers from several dozen countries attended, but there were many absentees from big players, including the US and France, the 2015 host.

Many hopes ride on a summit in New York on September 23 called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Campaigners for 73 environmental and development causes, meanwhile, formally returned to the UNFCCC process after walking out at the annual conference in Warsaw in 2013.

"We have come together to reiterate to all 'leaders' participating in the UN climate negotiations that they are dangerously off track in addressing the climate emergency," the group said in a statement.

"We call upon them to listen to the demands and solutions of people."

The UN talks seek to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels—but scientists say current emission trends could hike temperatures to more than twice that level by century's end.

Veteran observer Alden Meyer of US group the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said crunch time would come next year when national pledges are put on the table.

If, as expected, these are not enough to guarantee a 2 Celsius maximum, the Paris talks could launch "a review and an assessment between 2015 and 2020 to try to do more," he said.

Explore further: Climate deal 'won't be perfect': US negotiator

Related Stories

Climate deal 'won't be perfect': US negotiator

May 22, 2014

With 19 months to go until the deadline for a new, global pact on climate change, the United States' top negotiator cautioned Thursday against unrealistic expectations, saying the deal "won't be perfect".

Carbon plan still leaves US short of UN pledge

June 5, 2014

President Barack Obama's plan to cut the carbon emissions of US power plants by up to 30 percent will leave America far short of its current pledges at UN climate talks, a study said Wednesday.

Clock ticking on 2015 climate talks deal: EU

September 6, 2013

Countries around the world need to act with a sense of urgency if the 2015 UN climate change talks on cutting emissions are to have a credible outcome, a top EU official warned Friday.

Recommended for you

New Amazon threat? Deforestation from mining

October 18, 2017

Sprawling mining operations in Brazil are destroying much more of the iconic Amazon forest than previously thought, says the first comprehensive study of mining deforestation in the world's largest tropical rainforest.

Scientists determine source of world's largest mud eruption

October 17, 2017

On May 29, 2006, mud started erupting from several sites on the Indonesian island of Java. Boiling mud, water, rocks and gas poured from newly-created vents in the ground, burying entire towns and compelling many Indonesians ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2014
"Building blocks missing for 2015 climate pact".
So is the logic.
4 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2014
No orti, the logic is just fine. It is the denying stupidity of some people that is really illogical.
2 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2014
Bio fuel from corn, that was "brilliant" logic.

Go drink some Kool Aid Maggnus.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 07, 2014
Daring to come to a conclusion different for Maggnus' is "stupidity" and "illogical". Anything else Maggnus?
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2014
Building blocks?

Like Freeman Dyson?

The polar bears will be fine.

"Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson

Odds are, Dyson is right, and the rest are bought and paid for.
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2014
Ok,here's my two cents. Global warming...and global cooling has been happening for millions of years. Doesn't take a scientist to see this. But instead of trying to break the planet off the path it has followed and will CONTINUE to follow,maybe we should be more focused on adjusting to what the earth is doing?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.