Bunker tax on shipping gets the nod
Durban - With only three days left to set a strategy against global warming for the coming years, negotiators on Wednesday proposed an even lower temperature rise and gave a nod to a bunker tax on shipping.
"Significant progress has been made," said the ad-hoc working group on long-term co-operative action.
The text emerged a day after the launch of high-level talks involving heads of state and government and ministers. Negotiators have been meeting since November 28 to wrestle over the way forward.
More than 190 countries and 15 000 official delegates and observers are meeting in Durban under the looming cloud of the expiration of the world's only infrastructure to combat climate change. The Kyoto Protocol expires in December 2012.
The proposed text calls for the world's average temperature increase over pre-industrial times to be limited "to well below 1.5 degrees Centigrade" - a drastic decrease over the 2°C agreed upon in the past two climate summits.
That would mean even greater reductions in carbon emissions that are blamed for global warming. But even the current legally-binding and voluntary reduction pledges won't hit the 2°-mark. Rather, the UN Environmental Programme said on Tuesday, the world is on course for a 4° rise over the coming century.
Another key part of the document is how to fund the ambitious $100bn Green Climate Fund that was charted in Cancún in 2010. Negotiators adopted a proposal from Oxfam and other environmental groups to pursue a bunker tax on international shipping that would produce about $10bn a year for the fund.
But environmental groups are worried that the US has refused to even commit to backing the bunker tax, let alone discuss any other specifics about where the money will come from for the fund. US climate envoy Todd Stern insists that finalisation of details about governance and operation of the fund must come first.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday lowered expectations for the outcome of Durban talks, saying the world's financial crisis is a large hurdle for climate change efforts.
Ben Grossman-Cohen, a spokesperson for the Oxfam group, greeted the inclusion of the bunker tax in the document.
"It is significant that it made it through to this text, which is now under consideration by top ministers," he said.