Saturday, January 19, 2008


Climate Talks Faltering on Emissions Limits, UN Says (Update4)

By Alex Morales and Mathew Carr

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Climate talks to set a timetable for a new global warming treaty may collapse because the U.S. is resisting mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

The negotiations have failed so far to get the U.S. to accept a cut of as much as 40 percent in emissions by 2020, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told reporters today in Bali, Indonesia, where the talks are being held. The target was proposed this week by the European Union, a group of 130 developing nations and China.

Delegates to the meeting say the U.S. resistance threatens progress on an accord to replace the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol that runs out in 2012. The new treaty to fight climate change should be agreed to by the end of 2009, to ensure a smooth transition between Kyoto and its successor, de Boer said.

``To put it very directly and honestly, we are disappointed that having reached this stage of the negotiations we still haven't heard from the U.S. what is their level of ambition or engagement with the Bali road map,'' Humberto Rosa, Portugal's environment secretary of state and spokesman for the European Union, said today. Tomorrow is the final day of talks.

Representatives from more than 150 nations have gathered in Bali to hammer out an agenda for talks leading to a Kyoto replacement. The countries agreed today on a plan to establish a program to supply developing nations with environmentally sound technology such as wind turbines and solar panels, de Boer said.

Slowing Progress

The EU has said delegates should include an emissions target in the road map so that countries have a goal to work toward in the talks. The U.S. says any target and how to reach it should be determined during negotiations on the treaty, not now.

U.S. insistence that formal treaty talks should start without a set target on emissions for developed nations is slowing progress, said Su Wei, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation to the UN-sponsored meeting. China and the U.S., the two largest emitters, are key to any new agreement to slash greenhouse gases.

The U.S., the only developed nation not to ratify the Kyoto treaty, doesn't want to commit to emissions cuts of as much as 40 percent because ``it technically can't be achieved,'' White House chief environmental adviser James Connaughton said today in an interview in Bali.

``Those who are suggesting that you can magically find agreement on a metric, when you are just starting negotiations, that in itself is a blocking effort,'' Connaughton said. ``Even the legislation pending in our Congress from those on the furthest left on this issue have not proposed anything that strong.''

Japan, Australia

Japan has joined the U.S. in opposing the emissions targets, and Australia has said it won't commit to specific targets until it gets the results of a government-commissioned report on greenhouse gases.

``When negotiations get to a point of flux, with a couple of days to go, it is important we have appropriate flexibility to make sure all parties remain,'' Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said today in Bali.

Senators Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and head of the environmental committee, and Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, are among 52 members of Congress sending Bush a letter urging him to support emissions-reductions goals.

U.S. `Obstructing'

The U.S. is ``obstructing'' climate change talks, and the nation's climate policy will change in the next two years, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said today. Emissions targets must be part of a climate treaty that must take effect in 2010, he told Bali delegates in a speech.

``We must leave here with a strong mandate,'' Gore said. ``This is not the time for business as usual.''

The latest draft of the agenda for talks, handed to delegates today, refers to the 25 to 40 percent emissions goal, though it says that view is held by parties to the Kyoto Protocol, a group that excludes the U.S.

``This may be a diplomatic formulation that allows the Europeans to get the numbers in that they want, and the U.S. to go home and claim they aren't bound by those numbers,'' Andrew Deutz, senior policy adviser at The Nature Conservancy, said today in an interview in Bali.

The UNFCCC's De Boer said agreement must be reached by noon tomorrow so that the draft documents relating to each issue can be translated into six languages, photocopied and distributed in time to ministers, who will then have to accept them in an afternoon meeting.

Deadline Tomorrow

Some delegates are optimistic that the U.S., the European Union and China will come to an agreement before de Boer's deadline tomorrow.

``Negotiators always keep cards close to the chest until the last day,'' Emil Salim, head of the Indonesian delegates, said in a press briefing today. ``Tomorrow, early in the morning when everybody's a little bit sleepy, you'll get certain compromises. Tomorrow I see things moving.''

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