(May 18, 2007)

Deadlock on climate negotiations at UN talks

By Gerard Wynn
From Reuters

BONN (Reuters) - Deadlock over how to bring the United States and big developing nations to the climate negotiating table frustrated U.N.-hosted talks this week, meant to lay the groundwork for a conference in Indonesia in December.

At issue is extending and strengthening the Kyoto Protocol on global warming after 2012.

Only rich countries face emissions targets under Kyoto now and the stumbling block is they want big emitting developing nations to do more next time round.

Despite recent U.N. reports ringing alarm bells on global warming, the United States and Japan saw little prospect for launching formal talks to extend Kyoto at the Bali conference.

"You need all major emitters to join in, including India, China and the United States," said Japan's chief climate negotiator, Mutsuyoshi Nishimura.

"I'm really, really pessimistic that those conditions are going to be met. I have low expectations of kicking off negotiations in Bali."

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and ruled out talks in Bali to change the pact's parent treaty, the Convention on Climate Change, a necessary step to extend Kyoto.

"Certainly it would be premature," chief U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson told Reuters.

China wants more U.S. involvement, and all rich nations to continue to take the lead in tackling a problem it says they caused through centuries of burning fossil fuels.

"I don't think the first Kyoto period will be enough for developed countries to show their commitment," China's head of delegation Guoshun Sun said.

"We'll do our best to control emissions trends. Developing countries need assistance in technology and financial resources from developed countries."

The U.N.'s head of climate change Yvo de Boer acknowledged the "sticking points," but pointed to some shifts in Bonn, and especially the willingness of Brazil and South Africa for developing countries to talk about shouldering some commitments.


Germany hosts a G8 summit next month and hoped that a Brazilian, South African shift would open the door for the start of serious talks to extend Kyoto.

"We're aiming in our G8 process to give just that signal to Bali, and this is something Chancellor Merkel can build on," Germany's chief climate negotiator Nicole Wilke said.

"How to engage them in a future regime, that's what we need to decide now."

Policymakers, green groups and business leaders are concerned about what happens after present Kyoto Protocol emissions targets expire.

Nations have to agree new commitments and win parliamentary backing for them, a process seen taking at least four years.

Agreement was made in Bonn, to be signed off in Bali, that an adaptation fund would be made available for most vulnerable countries, and to set up a group to oversee technology transfer.

Delegates said a series of reports this year by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had focused minds on the need to act fast.

"Everybody knows there's a higher public expectation on policymakers," said the head of the European Commission's delegation, Artur Runge-Metzger. "The results of the IPCC reports are creeping into delegates' minds.


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