Troubled UN climate talks stall

2012-12-07 18:32

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Doha – The UN climate negotiators locked horns on the final day of talks in Doha to halt the march of global warming, deeply divided on extending the greenhouse gas-curbing Kyoto Protocol and funding for poor countries.

Delegates knuckled down for a long day and night of final haggling to find consensus on an interim plan to rein in climate change and smooth the way to a new deal that must enter into force in 2020.

"There is a high level of disappointment with the current package," Nauru Foreign Minister Kieren Keke, chairperson of the Alliance of Small Island States, told a lunch-time stock-taking meeting that followed overnight talks.

"On the whole, the current package is largely about continuing to talk and very little about action. Accepting the current package for AOSIS entails a very high if not unacceptable risk to our countries."

Funding to help poor countries deal with the fallout from global warming and convert to planet-friendlier energy sources remains a key sticking point between negotiators from nearly 200 countries gathered in the Qatari capital.

Developed countries are being pressed to show how they intend to keep a promise to raise climate funding for poor countries to $100bn per year by 2020 - up from a total of $30bn in 2010-2012.

Developing countries say they need at least another $60bn between now and 2015 to deal with increased droughts, floods, rising sea levels and storms.

But the United States and European Union have refused to put concrete figures on the table for 2013-2020 funding, citing tough financial times.

Hot air

Also in dispute is "hot air", the name given to Earth-warming greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use - about 13bn tons in total.

The credits can be sold to nations battling to meet their own quotas, meaning greenhouse gas levels decrease on paper but not in the atmosphere.

Poland and Russia emitted much less than their lenient limits, and insisted in Doha on being allowed to bank the difference beyond 2012 - a move most other parties vehemently oppose.

Agreement on hot air is key to the Doha delegates extending the life of the Kyoto pact, whose first leg expires on 31 December.

The protocol is the world's only binding pact on curbing greenhouse gases, but locks in only developed nations and excludes major developing polluters such as China and India, as well as the United States, which refused to ratify it.

A new 2020 deal, due to be finalised by 2015, will include commitments for all the nations of the world.

The duration of an interim "second commitment period" of Kyoto is also in contention.

"I understand that every party may not be fully satisfied with the individual outcomes that you are considering," conference president Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah of Qatar told delegates on Friday.

Human survival

"I would like to ask you not to see any of these in isolation but rather consider them all part of an overall, balanced package that allows Doha to be a gateway to increased climate action."

NGOs and delegates have expressed frustration at the pace of negotiations that coincided with a slew of fresh scientific warnings that Earth faces a calamitous future of more frequent extreme weather events.

"This is about human survival," Greenpeace chief executive Kumi Naidoo told AFP in the final hours of the talks.

The Philippines urged bickering climate negotiators on Thursday to take heed from the deadly typhoon that struck the archipelago this week and wake up to the realities of global warming.

"As we sit here, every single hour, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll is rising," said climate envoy Naderev Sano.

German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier has predicted that the talks, notorious for running way over schedule, "will be on the knife's edge up to the last moment".

Read more on:    un  |  eu  |  qatar  |  us  |  environment  |  climate change
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