Hard task ahead as world economies begin climate talks
London — Representatives of the world’s biggest carbon polluters began two days of informal talks in London on Sunday to map out common ground 50 days before a key UN climate conference in Copenhagen.
The 17 powers that make up the so-called Major Economies Forum (MEF), along with developing nations and UN representatives, will try to iron out some of their differences before the crunch summit in December.
"We represent about 90 percent of global emissions, so if we can get a way forward and narrow some of the differences between the… countries that represent the lion’s share of the problem, then it might make those UN talks easier," British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband told the BBC.
He said the Copenhagen talks, when nations will try to agree a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, were unlikely to succeed if left to the summit itself.
"The truth is that if this is left to the negotiators in the formal negotiations, I think we’ll fail," he said.
The MEF was launched by US President Barack Obama earlier this year on the back of an initiative by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to speed up the search for common ground among the most polluting world economies.
It then intends to hand this consensus for approval by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the sprawling 192-nation global arena.
The London talks will focus on emissions cuts, the protection of forests and climate finance — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said 100 billion dollars a year is needed to help developing countries tackle climate change.
Brown will address the MEF meeting on Monday and warn of the consequences of failing to reach a deal in December, but Miliband highlighted recent shifts in policy by India and China among other countries.
India said last month it was ready to set itself non-binding targets for cutting carbon emissions, while China said it would curb the growth of its emissions by a "notable margin" by 2020, although it did not specify further.
The US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, told British television on Saturday that developing economies must boost their efforts, warning it was "certainly possible" that no deal would be agreed in Copenhagen.
"What we need to have happen is for China and India and Brazil and South Africa and others to be willing to take what they’re doing, boost it up some, and then be willing to put it into an international agreement," he said.
But climate campaigners Friends of the Earth said it was up to the rich countries in the MEF to "face up to their legal and moral responsibility by agreeing to cut their emissions first and fastest".
Miliband said: "I hope everyone is feeling the pressure at the moment because we’ve all got to respond to make the deal happen."
The MEF comprises Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Britain, and United States.
Meanwhile, climate activists gathered for a second day at one of Britain’s biggest coal-fired power stations, which they want to shut down in protest against the huge levels of carbon emissions it produces.
At least 52 people have been arrested during the action at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station near Nottingham, central England, which is owned by German energy giant E.ON.