Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Climate change meet claims modest progress

SLOW PACEParticipants lamented a dearth of proposals at the conference, while environmental groups accused the US, Canada and Australia of obstructing progress


A UN conference on a new climate change agreement adjourned on Friday claiming modest progress, but with delegates concerned that the slow pace posed the risk of failing to complete an accord on time.

The end of the meeting coincided with a new report by a Dutch environmental monitor that China’s emissions of greenhouse gases sharply increased last year, and it now emits 14 percent more than the US.

The delegates from 172 countries began gathering specific proposals on how to slow global warming by curbing carbon emissions, how to help poor countries adapt to climate change and how to raise the hundreds of billions of dollars needed annually.

But participants said not enough ideas were put on the table, and environmental organizations accused the US, Canada and Australia of obstructing progress.

The talks aim to produce a successor accord to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for 37 industrial countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average 5 percent by 2012.

A new accord should be in place within 18 months to allow time for ratification and a smooth transition to a new regime in 2012.

“In view of the little negotiating time available up to 2009, proposals need to become much more focused,” said Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate change official.

Harald Dovland, the Norwegian chairman of a key working group on updating Kyoto’s terms, acknowledged frustration at the lack of conclusions.

“We need a completely new spirit of cooperation,” he said. “If we continue in this mode and speed of work, I fear we will not succeed in achieving the goals set in our work program.”

The chairman of a second key working group on multilateral cooperation said, however, that he was encouraged by numerous ideas on financing and technology transfers.

“Parties are making the all important transition from broader discussions to the negotiating phase,” Luis Figueiredo Machado said.

Bill Hare, of the Greenpeace environmental group, said wealthy countries had failed to offer concrete suggestions or creative solutions, and nearly all the innovative ideas came from developing countries.

“Unless the pace accelerates, unless political roadblocks are removed quickly and urgently, there is a major risk of failure in these negotiations,” he said.

Delegates will reconvene in August in Accra, Ghana, and again in Poznan, Poland, in December. At least four more major conferences were scheduled for next year, concluding in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

Scientists say the emissions of gases that trap heat and cause the earth’s temperature to rise must level off in the next 10 to 15 years, then decline sharply by mid-century.

They warn that an increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius could lead to catastrophic results, including a rise in sea levels threatening coastal areas and the extinction of up to 30 percent of species.

Among the proposals receiving the widest attention in Bonn was a plan by Mexico to create a new global fund into which all countries would contribute, possibly based on GDP or their rate of carbon emissions. Poorer countries could then draw on the fund to adapt to climate change.

China also generated buzz by suggesting a protocol to govern the transfer of technology.

It supported a notion to compensate companies for selling patented technologies cheaply to developing countries, in the same way pharmaceutical firms sell HIV/AIDS drugs at a reduced price to African and other AIDS-afflicted poor countries.

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