(BN) Islands See ‘End of History’ as Goals Slip at UN Climate Talks


Islands See 'End of History' as Goals Slip at UN Climate Talks
2010-11-30 05:00:01.8 GMT

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu
risk extinction from rising seas because nations aren't stepping
up commitments to cut greenhouse gases, a bloc of 43 island
countries said as United Nations climate talks began in Mexico.
Dessima Williams, the ambassador of Grenada who heads the
Alliance of Small Island States, said envoys from her
organization are concerned that a negotiating text for the talks
doesn't mention their "red line" goal of keeping temperature
gains since the 18th century below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The
text, prepared by Zimbabwe's Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, will
be debated today.
"We are facing at this moment the end of history for some
of us," said Antonio Lima, an envoy from Cape Verde and vice-
chair of the alliance, noting that Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Cook
Islands, Marshall Islands and Maldives are the most threatened.
"All these countries are struggling to survive. They are going
to drown. I have mountains in my country. I can climb. They
cannot climb."
The comments add to pressure on delegates in the Mexican
resort of Cancun after U.S. and European Union representatives
said they expect no treaty from the talks to curtail global
warming. Instead, speaking as the meeting started yesterday,
they said they were aiming for progress on a $100 billion fund
to fight global warming and on protecting forests.

Fires and Floods

Gains of more than 2 degrees would exacerbate the harmful
effects of climate change, which already this year has been
responsible for 21,000 deaths, twice the level in 2009,
according to Oxfam. The London-based aid charity that focuses on
alleviating poverty said global warming is linked to record
temperatures and floods in Pakistan that displaced 20 million
people and wildfires in Russia that destroyed 26 percent of the
nation's wheat crop this year.
The text due for debate today is half the length of the
official negotiating document, prepared before the talks as a
possible final agreement from Cancun.
A year ago, when the envoys last met in Copenhagen, efforts
to write a new treaty collapsed, resulting in a non-binding
package of promises from the U.S., China, India and other
countries. While 140 nations have since signed up to that
package, the Copenhagen Accord, the document isn't a formally
recognized UN text.
With the World Meteorological Organization warning that
emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for damaging the
atmosphere are at a record, the delegates have yet to work out a
way to extend the cuts to carbon dioxide output they agreed in
Kyoto, Japan in 1997.


The discussions will ratchet up next week, with the arrival
of about 25 mainly Latin American heads of state, said Mexican
Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who is chairing the talks.
Other attendees include U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu,
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Nancy Sutley, an adviser
to the White House, as well as Duke Energy Corp. Chief Executive
Officer James Rogers and Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent.
Progress in Cancun should include "anchoring" the
Copenhagen pledges on greenhouse gas reduction and limitation --
made by every major emitter -- into the UN process, U.S.
delegation chief Jonathan Pershing said. He also called for
transparency in the way countries monitor, report and verify
their emissions -- or MRV in UN jargon. He said he's working to
iron out differences with the Chinese delegation. The U.S. and
China are the world's two biggest emitters.

'Transparent' Process

"It's extremely important to have a clear sense of
understanding about what countries are delivering," Pershing
said. "The best way to do that is through a procedure in which
that becomes public and transparent."
Pershing and Peter Wittoeck, a Belgian envoy who speaks for
the 27-nation European Union, both said the new text needs to
say more on the mitigation actions countries will take to limit
their greenhouse gas emissions.
"The text is incomplete," Wittoeck said. "There is a
major gap in terms of the building blocks on mitigation and
At the same time, Wittoeck said the approach of narrowing
down options for an accord makes sense because the talks mustn't
get "bogged down" with endless options in brackets, which
signal areas that have yet to be agreed.
Bringing the Copenhagen pledges into the formal texts,
drawing up rules to govern MRV, reform and expansion of the
international carbon markets, and fixing some problems
associated with the existing emissions treaty, the Kyoto
Protocol, are the EU's priorities in Cancun, lead European
Commission negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said.

New Mechanism

A new mechanism is needed to allow developed countries to
achieve part of their emissions-reduction goals by paying to
slash carbons in sectors of developing country economies, such
as the waste industry, lighting and construction, Runge-Metzger
said. Delegates also need to reform rules on land use and ensure
spare emissions permits held by countries such as Russia and the
Ukraine, which already emit less than their targets for 2012,
aren't rolled on beyond then as current rules allow, he said.
"If we do not address these weaknesses, this would reduce
developed countries' current emissions pledges to virtually
zero," Runge-Metzger said.
The Copenhagen pledges, including a 20 percent reduction
commitment from 1990 through 2020 by the EU and a 17 percent cut
from 2005 through 2020 by the U.S., still fall short of the 2-
degree warming limitation goal laid out in the Copenhagen
Accord, Christiana Figueres, the UN's chief envoy leading the
talks, said yesterday. She's called for a step-by-step approach
in the dialogue, rather than a push for a treaty in Cancun.
"Anchoring the numbers is important, but so is elevating
the numbers," Williams of Grenada said, calling for a treaty to
be wrapped up at next December's summit in South Africa.
Williams said her alliance is calling for an insurance
mechanism to be set up to compensate vulnerable nations for
natural disasters and longer-term effects of warming such as
"We don't want to be the sacrificed countries of the 21st
century," Lima of Cape Verde said.

For Related News and Information:
Climate-change news: NI CLIMATE <GO>
Top environment stories: GREEN <GO>
Most-read environmental news: MNI ENV <GO>
Renewable Energy Stories: NI ALTNRG <GO>
For emissions-market news: NI ENVMARKET <GO>

--Editors: Reed Landberg, John Viljoen, Peter Langan.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Alex Morales in Cancun, Mexico, at +44-20-7330-7718 or
Kim Chipman in Cancun, Mexico, at +1-202-624-1927 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at +44-20-7330-7862 or