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Bonn Climate Talks Move at Glacial Pace
BONN, Germany, August 14, 2009 (ENS) – Negotiations toward a new agreement to limit global warming ended today in Bonn with little progress, United Nations officials and conservationists said.

"At this rate, we will not make it," said the UN’s top climate change official, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

A grim Yvo de Boer contemplates the slow pace of talks. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Negotiations need to move much faster to deliver strong outcomes on areas such as adaptation, technology and building skills in developing nations, he told reporters. Governments need to buckle down and concretely identify how to achieve this.

Attended by some 2,400 participants, the talks in Bonn were part of a series of UN gatherings this year designed to culminate in an ambitious and effective international climate change deal at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

De Boer stressed that "a climate deal in Copenhagen this year is an unequivocal requirement to stop climate change from slipping out of control."

The Copenhagen agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions is to follow the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

"So with only 15 days of negotiating time left before Copenhagen," said de Boer, negotiations will need to considerably pick up speed for the world to achieve a successful result at Copenhagen."

Anders Turesson, who chaired the European Union group in Bonn, said, "There are still chances for an agreement in Copenhagen in December, but it is time to step up the pace and other working methods are needed."

Dr. Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation in Bonn, described progress as "modest but real" and said common elements are emerging that the United States would support.

"We would support the inclusion of a place for all parties, all countries, to inscribe their nationally appropriate mitigation actions and their commitments. We see a common element for low greenhouse gas strategies, and of measurement, reporting and verification of countries' actions."

A view of the plenary hall at the Bonn climate talks (Photo courtesy ENB)

"For developed countries with commitments," said Pershing, "we envision that these would be quantitative emissions reductions with both a near-term and a long term component, there seems to be convergence among countries on that."

For developing countries, "We would like to see those countries inscribe robust, domestically-derived actions in a legally binding agreement," he said. "There are differences of view as to how that would be done."

Pershing says a deal in Copenhagen depends on India and China being included in any agreement. "Ourselves, Europe, China, India, Japan – it has to be the major emitters," he told BBC News. "If we think of a group of about 15 countries, they comprise of the order of 75 per cent of global emissions. We can't solve this without them; you need them all and they all have to move immediately."

The United States is willing to support least developed countries to build their capacity to make the needed changes, Pershing said. For coming financial year, the Obama administration "has increased nine-fold our financial request for adaptation, a key element of this agreement."

U.S. delegation head Johnathan Pershing briefs reporters. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC)

A key stumbling block is still the level and the source of financial support for poor countries, said Kim Carstensen, the head of WWF Global Climate Initiative.

Carstensen did say that "the growing number of countries supporting the idea of Copenhagen delivering a legally binding outcome was a positive sign."

"Delegates spent too much time arguing over procedures and technicalities. This is not the way overcome mistrust between rich and poor nations," he said. "Delegates are kept back by political gridlock. The political leaders must now unblock the process."

New figures from the United Nations released in Bonn show that 39 industrialized nations, excluding the United States, are planning to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 15 and 21 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Canada, for instance, presented their national target to reduce emissions by 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020.

Delegates from around the world talked informally in Bonn. August 12, 2009. (Photo courtesy ENB)

Russia detailed plans to reduce emissions by 10 to 15 percent by 2020 in comparison to 1990s levels.

These levels are higher than those mandated by the Kyoto Protocol - an average 5.2 percent emissions cuts from 1990 levels - but they fall far short of the 25 to 40 percent emissions cuts most scientists say are necessary to avert the worst effects of global warming.

De Boer told reporters these promises are "miles away" from the ambition needed to meet the goal, set by the G8 leaders last month, to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

"Industrialized countries need to show a greater level of ambition in agreeing to meaningful mid-term emission reduction targets," said de Boer. "The present level of ambition can be raised domestically and by making use of international cooperation."

"We also need a clear indication of the finance and technology industrialized countries are ready to provide to help developing countries green their economic growth and adapt to the impacts of climate change," he said.

The action now shifts to a series of crucial political meetings in September - at the UN General Assembly, the Major Economies Forum, and the G20 meeting on global economic stability, all dealing with climate change.

An opportunity for all heads of state and government to provide clear political guidance to negotiators ahead of the Copenhagen conference will be the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit for world leaders September 22 in New York where leaders from all 192 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will assemble.

Work on the draft negotiating text will continue on September 28 in Bangkok, Thailand at a two-week session. Delegates will then assemble for five days of pre-Copenhagen negotiations in Barcelona on November 2.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen takes place from December 7 to December 18, 2009.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.

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