Climate Talks Risk 'Hissy Fit' as Richer, Poorer Nations Grapple
2010-12-10 16:43:51.91 GMT
By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- United Nations envoys from 193
countries are trying to end two weeks of climate talks today
with an agreement that satisfies both richer and poorer
countries and advances treaty negotiations.
"It's beginning to stack up," U.K. Secretary of State for
Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne said today in Cancun,
Mexico. "We're in a much better position than we were in
Copenhagen, but there is potentially nothing to stop one or more
countries from having a hissy fit and throwing all of their toys
out of the pram."
After last year's push for a legally binding agreement to
limit emissions collapsed in Copenhagen, the UN scaled back
ambitions. Huhne said last night's negotiations ran until 3:30
a.m. as envoys "found a potential way through" difficult
issues. Disputes over how to reduce greenhouse gases may kill a
deal aimed at protecting forests and giving as much as $100
billion a year in aid to vulnerable countries by 2020.
China, India, Brazil and South Africa are pressing
industrialized nations to agree to new restrictions on fossil
fuel emissions after current ones in the Kyoto Protocol expire
in 2012. Japan, Canada and Russia refuse, saying that extending
the accord misses the point because the world's two biggest
emitters, the U.S. and China, are not included.
A failure in Cancun to achieve that may lead to a loss of
confidence in the UN-led international effort to curb global
warming. A dispute about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the
1997 treaty that set out the world's first program of emissions
limits, marred the two weeks of talks. Christiana Figueres, the
UN diplomat leading the discussions, said countries were so far
apart that a solution wasn't on the agenda for this meeting.
UN envoys in Cancun are working with a text that isn't
"very progressive" on the issues of transparency or how to
measure, report and verify emissions cuts, European Union
Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said today.
"Today's going to be a difficult day, and a very, very long
day," Hedegaard said in an interview in Cancun.
Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto yesterday
reiterated his country's opposition to a new commitment period,
saying the Kyoto protocol "only covers 27 percent of global
energy-related CO2 emissions." Japan "will not associate
itself with setting the second commitment period," he said.
As the talks enter the final scheduled day, some delegates
said they are holding out hope for an agreement on forests and
aid, as well as setting up an advisory body for adapting to
"We have differences, but they can be bridged," Brazilian
Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, who along with the U.K.
was tapped by the UN to find a consensus, said in an interview.
Claudia Salerno, the envoy from Venezuela, which was among six
countries that prevented an agreement last year, said, "we're
Scientists say glaciers are melting and sea levels rising
as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
increase to the highest levels recorded. This year may be the
warmest on record, the World Meteorological Organization said
Dec. 2, noting that further heating of the atmosphere is
inevitable regardless of whether the measures under
consideration in Cancun are adopted.
Delegates were working on language that would aim to keep
temperature gains to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Current emissions reduction pledges could lead temperatures to
rise 2.5 to 5 degrees by 2100, the UN Environment Program said
Nov. 23. Small island nations grappling with rising seas are
pushing for a limit of 1.5 degrees.
Coming on Board
"A majority of countries now support 1.5 over 2 degrees,"
Albert Binger, a science adviser for Grenada's delegation, said
in an interview. "As the world will see more impacts of climate
change, even more countries will come on board."
Some language now in draft text, such as requiring
developed nations to start cutting emissions from peak highs in
2015, isn't likely to remain in a final agreement, Jake Schmidt,
a climate expert at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense
Council, said in Cancun.
"I'm really disappointed, because we're toying around the
edges," Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana, said in an
interview. "Positions are watered down. The greenhouse gases
are being pumped into the atmosphere."
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who wants deeper emissions
cuts from richer countries and an international court to protect
the environment, said "trying to find a middle road is an
attempt to lie to the people."
Last year, Bolivia joined Venezuela, Sudan, Cuba, Nicaragua
and Tuvalu in blocking the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement
brokered by about 30 leaders, including U.S. President Barack
Obama and China's Premier Wen Jiabao, from being adopted as a
formal UN text.
The deals being negotiated in Cancun include:
A fund to channel as much as $100 billion a year by 2020 to
help developing countries clean up industries and adapt to
rising temperatures. How it will be managed and who will sit on
its board will be worked out next year.
A forest protection program known as Reducing Emissions
from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. It would
fund forestry projects and may allow developing nations to earn
money from carbon markets by setting aside forests to absorb
An "adaptation committee" to advise nations on how to
prepare for and adapt to climate change.
How to monitor, report and verify emissions reductions by
developed countries and climate protection actions taken by
poorer ones, or MRV in UN jargon.
Mexican officials hosting the talks said documents are
ready for the final and most important review, he said.
"The fact that talks kept going day and night, it's a very
good sign," Mexican Environment Minister Juan Elvira said in an
interview today. "Mexico needs to build bridges with all the
countries, including Bolivia and the rest of the parties."
Milton Nogueira da Silva, a climate change official in
Brazil, compared the climate talks to marriage. The negotiations
are now in the "just about to get married" stage, he said in
an interview. "Everyone is hoping that the bridegroom doesn't
run away like last year in Copenhagen."
For Related News and Information:
Emission trading stories: TNI ENVMARKET CLIMATE <GO>
Top environment and renewable energy stories: GREEN <GO>
Stories about the climate talks: NSE CLIMATE CANCUN <GO>
--With additional assistance from Carlos Manuel Rodriguez,
Mathew Carr and Jim Efstathiou Jr. in Cancun. Editors: Reed
Landberg, Mike Anderson, Randall Hackley.
To contact the reporters on this story:
Kim Chipman in Cancun, Mexico at +1-202-624-1927 or
Alex Morales in Cancun, Mexico, at +44-20-7330-7718 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at +44-20-7330-7862 or