Home News All eyes on EU as UN climate talks stumble on

All eyes on EU as UN climate talks stumble on

Published on 11/12/2008

POZNAN -- UN talks on crafting a new climate change treaty inched forward on Wednesday, with delegates hoping the EU would spur the process by approving its own pact at a crunch summit.

The conference in the Polish city of Poznan, gathering more than 11,600 participants from around the world, will reach a climax on Thursday with the start of two days of ministerial level talks.

Some 150 environment ministers and top government officials were expected, as well as UN head Ban Ki-moon and US senators John Kerry and Amy Klobuchar — two figures seen as the eyes and ears of president-elect Barack Obama.

Negotiations among the 192 members UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are mid way through a two-year "roadmap" set down on the Indonesian island of Bali last year.

They are aiming for a deal in Copenhagen in Dec. 2009 for a far reaching pact that would roll back the peril of global warming.

It would take effect from 2012, when provisions expire under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol.

This is proving a tall order, with the complex discussions in Poznan centered on how to share out the commitments and costs of cutting the carbon pollution that stokes global warming.

Rich countries acknowledge their historic role in pushing up global temperatures but they say emerging powers like China and India must also take action.

Developing and poorer nations hit back with the argument that the industrialised world should lead by example, and foot the bill for clean energy technology and coping with the impact of global warming.

"It is going slow. But at this stage, there is some progress." South Africa’s minister of environment and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, told AFP.

Negotiators agreed that by next June they would whittle down a 100-page document, stuffed with hundreds of sometimes conflicting proposals, into a workable blueprint for action beyond 2012, said a UN source.

Pressure group Greenpeace complained that the talks were becoming bogged down. A large banner hung above the entrance to Poznan train station, urged ministers to "get serious."

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said activists wearing eyeball costumes would greet ministers as they arrived, demonstrating the world is "eagerly observing the negotiations and expects constructive conclusions."

France’s climate ambassador Brice Lalonde said hopes of a breakthrough at Poznan had always been misplaced.

"Poznan was never going to be a conference where a spectacular outcome was to be expected," Lalonde told reporters. "We hope for a spectacular outcome in Copenhagen next year."

But delegates also wondered how the Bali "roadmap" will look after an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday that will aim to hammer out an accord over Europe’s climate plan.

The EU, credited with salvaging the Kyoto Protocol after the United States refused to ratify it in 2001, has championed demands for a tough post 2012 pact.

Its programme sets down the most ambitious goals of any advanced economy, including 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, increased use of renewable energy sources and overall energy savings.

But a major sticking point is the plan to require industry to start buying its polluting rights via auction, raising objections from economic powerhouse Germany and coal-heavy eastern Europe countries like Poland.

"You can see the US and China moving (on climate change). We will destroy or undermine that movement if we go flaky in Europe now," leading economist Nicholas Stern, author of a landmark 2006 report on climate change, said in Poznan on Tuesday.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters on Wednesday that the EU risked losing its vanguard role and giving the impression it was "no longer serious" on climate change if no deal was struck in Brussels.

Simon Sturdee/AFP/Expatica