Support grows for Durban climate deal

DURBAN, South Africa, (Reuters) – Support grew  yesterday for an EU plan to agree a global climate change pact  with binding targets by 2015, after poor nations vulnerable to  climate change forged alliances with developed countries.

The European Union said it was encouraged its “road map” to  legally binding commitments by 2015 to cut greenhouse gas  emissions was gaining traction at the talks, which are due to  wrap up in the South African port of Durban on Friday.

Karl Hood

U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern said Washington  supported an EU roadmap to a new treaty, and Canadian  Environment Minister Peter Kent said Ottawa had forged a  partnership with small island states which could be swamped by  the rising sea levels caused by global warming.    “We’re not setting a hard target on this date…(but) 2015  would be a reasonable target to set to pull together any new  climate change regime,” Peter Kent told reporters.

“If we can reach one before 2015, that would be good, if it  takes somewhat longer, that would be fine…but we can’t leave  Durban without a firm agreement,” he said.

Days earlier Kent had said that the Kyoto Protocol, the only  legally binding accord on reducing carbon emissions, was “in the  past”.

With the EU pact gaining momentum, pressure could shift to  the developing world’s biggest polluters — China and India —  to come on board.

A group of 48 of the least developed countries said it now  backed the European plan for a firm timetable, joining African  nations and 43 small island states.

“The EU roadmap is totally in play right now. The shift of  the least developed countries and AOSIS (Alliance of Small  Island States) to work with the EU potentially shows some kind  of roadmap coming out of here,” said Jennifer Morgan at the  World Resources Institute.

Reflecting the changing mood in Durban, Brazil, an emerging  economy that is a key player in climate negotiations, also said  there was convergence on a deal in Durban.

“It think it’s possible,” Brazil’s chief negotiator Luiz  Alberto Figueiredo told reporters, when asked if Durban could  agree a date by which a legally binding accord could be reached.

Todd Stern

“We are in favour of negotiating a legally binding  instrument that will cover the phase after 2020. The parties are  moving there, it’s a question of completing the negotiations,”  he said.

“All countries will be inside and they will be bound by this  new instrument,” he added.

 CAUTIOUS NOTE       
Nevertheless, some delegates warned the talks could still  break down on the final day on Friday as the dates and precise  legal form of a treaty still have to be thrashed out.

One EU source said U.S. negotiators still opposed specific  targets because they had no mandate to sign up to a legally  binding deal. Environmental legislation is the subject of  intense wrangling in the U.S. Congress, which must ratify any  treaty.

“They can agree to a road map leading nowhere but not a road  map leading to a legally binding deal, which is what the EU  wants,” said the EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity,  said of U.S. negotiators.

Previously, the United States has said it supported  discussions that would lead to an emission cut deal, even one  that was legally binding, but would not commit to set dates or a  set outcome.

“It is completely off base to suggest the U.S. is proposing  it will delay action to 2020,” U.S. climate envoy Stern told  reporters. “The EU has called for a roadmap (to a future deal).  We support that.”

Poor states most threatened by the rising sea levels caused  by global warming were sceptical.
“Let me see that in the negotiation room, let me see that in  the text,” said Grenada’s Foreign Minister Karl Hood,  representing small island nations.

Speaking before Canada’s announcement, Britain’s climate  envoy Chris Huhne said the European Union was not prepared to  accept a deal in Durban at any price, saying there had to be  real meat on the bones of any agreement.

“We’re not interested in just papering over the  cracks. We’re interested in something that really does provide  us with a roadmap to a single overarching global agreement which  delivers a solution to climate change,” he told reporters.

“If we don’t have a credible agreement, we will not agree  here, we will go away from Durban and there won’t be an  agreement here and we’ll wait to a point where we can get a  credible agreement.”

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