BALI, Indonesia (Reuters) - About 190 nations start talks on Monday to try to sharpen the main weapon against climate change, the Kyoto treaty, by involving all countries ranging from the United States to the poorest in Africa.
Delegates to the U.N.-sponsored talks in Bali, Indonesia, are under intense pressure to launch negotiations on a “roadmap” that will lead to a broader pact by late 2009 to tackle greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for causing global warming.
But the trick is to find the magic formula that gets every nation on board, from the biggest emitters such as the United States and China to the smallest and most vulnerable, such as tropical island states or sub-Saharan African nations.
Over the past years, climate change talks have been bogged down by arguments over who’s going to pay the bill for cleaner technology and how to share out the burden of emissions curbs between rich and poor nations.
The bottom line is no nation at the Bali talks wants its economy to suffer by implementing strict emissions curbs. But climate scientists say time is running out.
“We’re already seeing many of the impacts of climate change,” said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, referring to melting glaciers, droughts and rising seas. “We are on a very dangerous path,” he told a news conference.
He said the talks had to conclude in 2009 to avoid a gap after the Kyoto Protocol’s first phase ends in 2012.
“It’s here and now. Indonesia is already suffering from the impacts of global warming,” said Fitrian Ardiansyah of the WWF conservation group. WWF said weather records were being broken around the world, from a melting Arctic to Australian droughts.
The Bali gathering aims find a way to update or replace Kyoto, which binds 36 industrial countries to emissions curbs between 2008-12.
The United States says Kyoto is flawed because it excludes developing nations from legally binding emissions cuts.
But China and India, among the world’s top polluters and comprising more than a third of humanity, say it’s unfair and unrealistic for them to agree to targets, particularly as they try to lift millions out of poverty.
They say emissions from rich nations are responsible for the bulk of man-made greenhouse gas pollution to date and those nations should take the lead in fighting climate change.
Publicly, at least, China and the United States say they will be open and flexible at Bali.
“We’d like to see consensus on the launch of negotiations. We want to see a Bali roadmap,” said Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a phone conversation on Sunday that China would adopt an “active, responsible and constructive” approach in Bali. But he urged rich nations to help.
Developing countries will also push for a new system of credits to help slow the rate of deforestation. Trees store carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, when they grow.
The Bali talks will also sort out who will manage a global fund to help the world’s most vulnerable regions adapt to climate change. The fund could be worth $1.6 billion by 2012.
“We need to move beyond the reports of melting icebergs — everyone’s aware of that by now. People know the problem is serious. The delegates can now get to work on the problem. There’s no need for a media showcase to convince anyone,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Reuters in Berlin.