Copenhagen climate treaty in danger

Nov. 9, 2009 at 2:30 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Experts are increasingly doubtful that the Copenhagen climate-change conference can produce a binding climate treaty, less than a month before the U.N.-mandated meeting is due to start.

The latest round of negotiations in Barcelona last week revealed the growing frustration over the slow progress when it comes to stopping global warming.

Frustrated by developed countries' unwillingness to make firm commitments on emission cuts, delegates from the African nations decided to boycott the negotiations in Spain.

U.S. negotiators in Barcelona disappointed representatives from developing countries. Despite a strong campaign pledge from President Barack Obama to inject new life into climate-protection negotiations, the United States has not stepped up to the challenge, developing nations say. A U.S. climate bill is delayed in the Senate, and Washington's negotiators in Barcelona were not ready to back concrete emissions-reductions targets that would be ensured by U.N. oversight.

On the sidelines of the Barcelona summit, some delegates were thus "contemplating the increasingly clear high-level messages that a legally binding agreement at COP 15 will not be possible," the Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports. "Some observers were visibly disappointed, while others tried to stay positive as they speculated about prospects for a legally binding instrument sometime in 2010."

The accord to be born at Copenhagen -- to feature binding emissions-reductions targets, adaptation measures and their funding -- is due to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Key to the new accord are ambitious commitments from the United States and leading developing economies such as India and China.

But some experts now say the Kyoto Protocol may be extended beyond 2012 in case the world fails to agree on an ambitious new treaty at Copenhagen or in the months after that.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish climate and energy minister who will chair the Copenhagen summit, said that the Dec. 8-17 event will be "a moment of truth." The Barcelona conference showed that "countries are very worried about the consequences of global warming and expect the developed countries to perform in Copenhagen," she said in a statement. "Although the blockade slowed down negotiations, it is encouraging that Africa speaks with one voice. It sends a clear signal to the countries that there should be numbers on the table in Copenhagen -- regarding reduction targets as well as financing."

Yvo de Boer, the United Nations' top climate-change official, said the Barcelona talks did produce some progress on technology cooperation, stopping deforestation in developing countries and adaptation.

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