New conflicts derail U.N. climate talks

April 14, 2010 at 2:14 PM
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BONN, Germany, April 14 (UPI) -- Last week's U.N. climate talks in Germany ended without an agreement on a deadline to reach a comprehensive climate protection treaty.

After 194 nations failed to come together at last year's Copenhagen conference, they are now unclear on when they can reach a deal.

Developing countries want an agreement to emerge at the next major climate summit Nov. 29-Dec. 10 in Cancun, Mexico. Yet rich nations say the deadline is unrealistic because of the number of differences over binding carbon dioxide-reduction pledges and financing.

That's a reversal from last year, when the world's biggest economies pressed for an agreement in Copenhagen, which didn't materialize.

"This change of attitude from frantic urgency to apparent complacency is most likely due to the gloomy fact, not openly expressed in Bonn's meeting rooms, that the United States Congress is unlikely to pass a climate bill this year," Martin Khor, who heads the South Center, a Geneva think tank for developing countries, wrote in an editorial for Britain's The Guardian newspaper. "And without the United States on board, other developed countries do not want to make final commitments … on how much they themselves will cut their emissions. So the world is waiting for America -- and it could be a long wait."

The three-day German talks in Bonn were hurriedly scheduled to speed up stalled climate negotiations. They come ahead of two-week negotiations to take place in Bonn at the end of May.

World nations are also not necessarily on the same page as to whether to keep alive the Copenhagen Accord, a text patched together in the final hours of a disappointing climate conference in the Danish city late last year.

In Copenhagen, 120 world leaders were unable to agree to more than vague promises to limit CO2 emissions. The non-binding Copenhagen Accord was merely noted but not adopted by the conference parties.

It sets the limit of global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and provides short- and long-term finance to help poor nations cope with climate change; it also set 2015 as a review year to see if global action needs to be more urgent to meet the challenge.

Yet it remains a voluntary text, and even if nations commit to it, they aren't legally bound to honor their pledges. Moreover, as the accord was drafted by only a selected few, it shattered trust in the transparency of the negotiation process.

The European Union and the United States are nevertheless keen to keep the accord alive.

"Many intense and stormy meetings lie ahead between now and Cancun and beyond," Khor wrote.

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