Aid, climate disputes push UN talks to brink of failure

DOHA, (Reuters) – Disagreements over how to help poor nations cope with everything from floods to rising seas pushed marathon U.N. climate change talks among almost 200 countries close to failure yesterday.

The two-week U.N. meeting, originally due to end yesterday, was also struggling to agree on an extension of the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol, which obliges developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and will otherwise expire on Dec. 31.

“Ambition is of the lowest and at the pace of the slowest,” Kevin Conrad, lead negotiator for Papua New Guinea, told delegates as talks stretched long past midnight.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern merely shrugged his shoulders when asked by Reuters if there would be a deal on issues such as demands by developing nations for a timetable for raising aid payments to help them cope with a changing climate.

Todd Stern

“We’ve been drafting new texts and it’s not yet known whether there will be any room for negotiation, or we’ll just present it and say ‘take it or leave it’,” Sofoclis Aletraris, Cyprus’ Environment Minister, told Reuters.

“But all this sleeplessness is part of the tactic,” he said. Cyprus holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Expiry of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, weakened by pullouts by Russia, Japan and Canada, would leave the world with no legally binding deal to confront global warming and merely a patchwork of national laws to rein in rising carbon emissions.
Earlier, the United Nations tried to dampen already modest expectations.

“There never is going to be enough ambition,” Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters of the efforts to slow changes behind the growing number of droughts, floods and heat waves, and rising sea levels.
“The fact is that the international policy response is fundamentally behind where the science says we are. If you look at the difference there is always going to be a lag,” she said.

World carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise 2.6 percent this year, and are more than 50 percent higher than in 1990. Recent growth has come mostly from emerging nations, led by China and India.

The United States, Europe and other developed nations, facing economic slowdown at home, have refused to set out a timetable for a tenfold rise in aid toward a promised $100 billion a year from 2020 to help developing nations.

In one advance, nations agreed a draft timetable late on Friday for work towards a new, global U.N. deal to fight climate change by 2015 that is due to enter into force by 2020.

Delegates lined up to get coffee in breaks in the meeting in the cavernous conference centre in Qatar, an OPEC member which has disappointed many nations by failing to set limits on its greenhouse gas emissions, the highest per capita in the world.

Developing nations have also accused the rich of dragging their feet on extending Kyoto, which requires signatories to cut emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the years 2008 to 2012.

Kyoto backers are down to a core of nations led by the European Union and Australia that account for less than 15 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.

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