UN talks seeking to slow the march of destructive global warming ran far into extra time yesterday as host Qatar sought to broker an end to the standoff between rich and poor nations on funding.
After a long night of haggling, conference chairman Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah of Qatar called tired negotiators to a stock-take meeting where he urged them to consider a set of compromise agreements.
“I believe that this is a package that we can all live with and which is also good for our planet and future generations,” he told the delegates from nearly 200 countries, including dozens of Cabinet ministers.
“The time has come for the final push,” Attiyah said, and gave the teams 90 minutes to reconsider their positions. “We have to close this in the next couple of hours.”
Negotiators in Doha must extend the greenhouse gas-curbing Kyoto Protocol as an interim measure to rein in climate change and smooth the way to a new, global pact due to take effect in 2020.
However, the issue of funding to help poor countries deal with the fallout from global warming and convert to planet-friendlier energy sources has hamstrung the haggling in the Qatari capital.
Developed countries are being pressed to show how they intend to keep a promise to raise climate funding for poorer nations to US$100 billion a year by 2020 — up from a total of US$30 billion from 2010 to this year.
Developing countries say they need at least another US$60 billion between now and 2015 — starting with US$20 billion from next year — to deal with a climate change-induced rise in droughts, floods, rising sea levels and storms.
However, the US and EU have refused to put concrete figures on the table for next year to 2020, citing tough financial times.
There was also deadlock on a separate demand by least developed countries and those most at risk of sea level rise that provision be made for the losses they suffer because of climate change — a phenomenon they blame on the West’s polluting ways since the industrial era.
Non-governmental organizations and delegates have expressed frustration at the pace of negotiations that coincided with a slew of fresh scientific warnings that the Earth faces a calamitous future of more frequent extreme weather events.
The UN is targeting a maximum temperature rise of 2oC on pre-industrial levels that scientists believe would be manageable, but recent evidence warns the planet may be on the path to double that.
One of the key disputes in Doha was “hot air,” the name given to greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use — about 13 billion tonnes in total.
The credits can be sold to nations battling to meet their own quotas, meaning that greenhouse gas levels decrease on paper, but not in the atmosphere.
Poland and Russia emitted much less than their lenient limits, and insisted in Doha on being allowed to bank the difference beyond this year — a move most other parties vehemently oppose.
Agreement on hot air is key to delegates in Doha extending the life of the Kyoto pact, whose first leg expires at the end of this month.
The protocol is the world’s only binding pact on curbing greenhouse gases, but it locks in only developed nations and excludes major developing polluters, such as China and India, as well as the US, which refused to ratify it.