* Climate meetings struggling to focus on technical issues
* Confrontation over emissions curbs delaying process
* Stakes high amid signs of dangerous climate change
By Gerard Wynn
BONN, Germany, June 9 Negotiations meant to
avert dangerous climate change are stuck over future emissions
restrictions in wrangling at meetings below the ministerial
level, undermining the U.N.-backed process.
The pace of talks has slowed since a two-year campaign for a
binding deal ending at a Copenhagen summit in 2009, when world
leaders failed to deliver, and acrimony lingers.
Developed countries have yet to decide whether to fund
additional sessions before an annual ministerial conference in
Durban in South Africa in November, pinning this on more
progress at a June 6-17 meeting in Bonn, Germany.
"This will depend among other things on the extent of
progress made here in Bonn, and whether the political will among
parties exists for a further session," said the head of the EU
delegation, Artur Runge-Metzger.
Less formal talks started this week in Bonn where they left
off in Bangkok in April, hung up on the big picture of how to
share future emissions cuts. That debate was above negotiators'
pay-grade, said a senior official who declined to be named.
Additional disputes over the agenda at both meetings delayed
progress on technical decisions too detailed for ministers, such
as how to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions, share
low-carbon technologies and mobilise climate aid.
The United Nations' 1997 Kyoto Protocol only binds the
emissions of industrialised countries, from 2008-2012. Endless
debate over the big issue of how to widen the pact to include
large emerging economies has reinforced deadlock.
"I'm a little sad participating in these negotiations
because the atmosphere is so confrontational," said Akira
Yamada, head of the Japanese delegation.
The stakes are very high.
Ministers agreed last year to limit a rise in average global
temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above
pre-industrial times, seen as the threshold for "dangerous"
change such as heat waves, droughts, floods and rising seas.
But so far, the United Nations says that promised curbs on
emissions are too weak to reach that goal. Temperatures have
already risen by about 0.7 degrees C (1.1 F) with effects such
as a thaw of glaciers and disruptions to crops.
Countries have run out of time to launch a new binding deal
by 2013, the U.N.'s top climate official, Christiana Figueres,
said on Monday, implying a messy, legal gap. [ID:nLDE7551JS]
Carbon emissions last year rose at their fastest rate in
four decades, and at more than twice the average annual average,
data from the energy company BP showed on Wednesday.
Click for BP data on rising carbon emissions [ID:nLDE7571E3]
The talks can only proceed by consensus, and in Bonn were
stuck not only on a new round of Kyoto, but also a proposal from
the world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, for compensation
in case increased climate action cuts revenues of oil producers.
Debate over the agenda made some countries doubt the value
of extra meetings before Durban. "Without progress in these two
weeks there's no point having another session in the fall," the
Colombian delegation told the launch of the Bonn session.
On the big picture, the main knot is how far to involve
major emerging economies in climate action after 2012.
Most developing countries say that only developed countries
should take action binding under international law, as so far
under Kyoto, referring back to a 1992 Climate Convention which
enshrines a clear difference in responsibility between developed
and developing countries.
"Pledges for developing countries are voluntary," said
Silvia Merega, on the delegation of Argentina, which chairs the
G77 group of more than 130 developing countries at the talks.
The United States, which never ratified Kyoto, and many
other industrialised countries say emerging economies including
China must stand behind their actions with equal legal force,
saying their differences had blurred since 1992.
"We're not prepared to move if the obligations just point
only to those in the developed world," said Jonathan Pershing,
the U.S. head of delegation in Bonn.
China is a much bigger economy now, and by far the world's
biggest carbon emitter, but its per capita income still lags
The South African hosts of the next ministerial meeting
warned of a challenging conference at the end of the year.
"We are well aware of the fact that deliberations in Durban
will be difficult," South African delegate Nozipho Diseko told
the Bonn conference.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)