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UN Climate Talks Face 'Zombie' Future as Treaty Stays Elusive
2010-12-10 06:50:47.399 GMT
By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- United Nations envoys from 193
countries end two weeks of climate talks today, hoping to
agree on protecting forests and aid to poorer nations.
Disputes between developed and developing nations on how to
reduce greenhouse gases may kill those deals.
At the meeting in the Mexican City of Cancun, China,
India, Brazil and South Africa pressed 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 refused, saying extending the accord misses
the point because the world's two biggest emitters, the U.S.
and China, are not part of it.
After last year's push for a legally binding agreement
to limit emissions collapsed in Copenhagen, the UN scaled
back ambitions to focus on a series of programs to build to
an eventual new treaty. A failure in Cancun to achieve that
may lead to a loss of confidence in the UN-led international
effort to curb global warming.
"The worrying scenario would be that this process
becomes a zombie conference, and people will say next year
we're not going to send a minister, we'll send a civil
servant," said the U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and
Climate Change Chris Huhne in Cancun.
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.
As the talks enter the final day, some delegates are
holding out hope for an agreement on forests and aid, as well
as setting up an advisory body for adapting to climate change.
"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 finding convergence."
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.
"I'm really disappointed, because we're toying around
the edges," Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana, said in an
interview at the conference. "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.
Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto said the
Kyoto protocol "only covers 27 percent of global energy
related CO2 emissions" and that his nation "will not
associate itself with setting the second commitment period."
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 greenhouse gases.
An "adaptation committee" to advise nations on how to
prepare for and adapt to climate change.
And, 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 were reluctant to
say whether this year's negotiations would produce an
agreement, though they said the atmosphere was better than
"It's a choppy sea, but the vessel in which all the
world's countries are is solid and whole, in contrast to last
year when the ship was sinking because of a lack of
confidence," Mexican Environment Minister Juan Elvira said
in an interview.
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, Peter Langan, John Viljoen
To contact the reporters on this story:
Kim Chipman in Cancun, Mexico at +1-202-624-1927 or
Jim Efstathiou Jr. in Cancun at +1-212-617-1647 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at +44-20-7330-7862 or