Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 6 News List

UN should be sidelined in climate talks: US official

‘CHAOTIC’A US official said that future negotiations on climate change should be dominated by the world’s largest polluters, such as China, the US, India and Brazil

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON AND LONDON

The US sees a diminished role for the UN in trying to stop global warming after the “chaotic” Copenhagen climate change summit, a US official said on Wednesday.

US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing, who helped lead talks at Copenhagen, instead sketched out a future path for negotiations dominated by the world’s largest polluters such as China, the US, India, Brazil and South Africa, which signed up to a deal in the final hours of the summit. That would represent a realignment of the way the international community has dealt with climate change over the last two decades.

“It is impossible to imagine a global agreement in place that essentially doesn’t have a global buy-in,” he said, in a reference to the UN.

However, he added that “it is also impossible to imagine a negotiation of such global complexity.”

Pershing said the flaws in the UN process, which demands consensus among the international community, were exposed at Copenhagen.

“The meeting itself was at best chaotic,” he said, in a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We met mostly overnight. It seemed like we didn’t sleep for two weeks. It seemed a funny way to do things, and it showed.”

The lack of confidence in the UN extends to the US$30 billion global fund, which will be mobilized over the next three years to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

“I am not sure that any of us are particularly confident that the UN managing the near-term financing is the right way to go,” he said.

Pershing did not exclude the UN from future negotiations, but he repeatedly credited the group of leading economies headed by the US for moving forward on the talks.

He suggested the larger forum offered by the UN was instead important for countries such as Cuba or the small islands that risk annihilation by climate change to air their grievances.

The first test of the accord agreed by the US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil arrives on Jan. 31, the deadline for countries to commit officially to actions to halt global warming. Here, too, Pershing indicated that the focus would be far narrower in scope than the UN’s all-inclusive approach.

“We expect that there will be significant actions recorded by major countries,” he said. “We are not really worried what Chad does. We are not really worried about what Haiti says it is going to do about greenhouse gas emissions. We just hope they recover from the earthquake.”

Key groups of developing countries are to meet this month to try to explore ways to get to agree a binding agreement.

Under UN laws, consensus is required for a binding agreement. There is growing confusion over the legal standing of the agreement reached in Copenhagen and many countries may not be in a position to sign up by Jan. 31 because they have yet to consult their parliaments.

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