UN warns "paradise" threatened during climate meeting

3rd December 2007, Comments 0 comments

3rd December 2007, The decisions of governments this week will decide whether the world's islands are rendered a "lost paradise" by global warming, the UN's top climate official said at the opening of a crucial UN climate conference.

3rd December 2007

The decisions of governments this week will decide whether the world's islands are rendered a "lost paradise" by global warming, the UN's top climate official said at the opening of a crucial UN climate conference.

Delegates from about 180 countries began their meeting that are to continue through December 14 on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, which the United Nations hopes will formally launch talks over the next two years on a climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

"The outcome of this conference will, to a degree, determine whether Bali - and other vulnerable places - are destined to become a lost paradise or not," Yvo de Boer, general secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in opening the gathering.

"Public expectations for Bali to provide answers are big," de Boer said. "The eyes of the world are now upon you. There is a huge responsibility for Bali to deliver."

Governments were expected to set the end of 2009 as the goal for reaching a climate deal, allowing enough time for countries to ratify the treaty before the end of Kyoto, which began in 2005.

Over the next two years, countries would have to agree to emission-reduction goals, assign specific responsibilities and decide if and how to finance clean technology development, avoid deforestation and help poorer countries adapt to the consequences of climate change.

The Bali talks were expected to produce the road map that would lead them through those decisions. More than 10,000 government representatives, climate experts and environmentalists were attending the meeting.

Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar told the delegates that climate protection "must form" an integral part of sustainable economic development.

"We need to use this session to send a strong statement to the international community that we at Bali negotiations can act with the requisite sense of urgency and import," Witoelar said.

As the talks begin, many eyes were on China and the United States, the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming. The US did not ratify Kyoto, in large part because developing countries like China were not given emission-reduction targets.

What kind of international commitments should be pledged by developing countries this time around was expected to be a top issue in Bali. Some industrialized nations have said they would only sign up to a treaty that, unlike Kyoto, includes hard targets for developing countries.

The European Union last week called on China to accept binding commitments to reduce emissions. Developing countries in turn pointed to the industrial world's historic responsibility for global warming.

The US has said it is committed to reaching a deal by 2009 but has sought to place the focus on national programmes rather than international targets. Some governments and environmentalists have placed their hope on a more environmentally friendly administration after the 2008 US presidential elections.

"I believe Washington will only commit itself to an international climate treaty when it is clear, after the presidential elections, how climate protection in America itself should be organized," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Sunday.

Gabriel said he expected the United States to work hard to prevent talk of any binding commitments coming out of Bali.

Harlan Watson, senior US climate negotiator, said emissions are global and the response, to be environmentally effective, would need to be global. Work must be done by the United States and all the world's largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, developed and developing countries alike, while respecting national circumstances, he said.

The United States intends to be "flexible and work constructively" with all Convention Parties to achieve consensus on a "Bali Road

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