Diplomatic push mooted for Russia's climate deadlock

13th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Europe on Thursday mooted a diplomatic push to persuade Russia to stop blocking a UN-appointed body tasked with laying vital groundwork for a global pact on climate change.

At talks in Bonn, Russia used procedural moves to grind work to a halt in one of three subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where the 2015 deal is being drafted.

The technical committee, known as the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), threw in the towel on Tuesday, achieving nothing in the 12-day negotiating round which ends Friday.

"In the coming months we will have to try and find a way forward," European Commission climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said on the sidelines of the beleaguered talks.

"We need to talk to these three proponents... to get them on board," he added, referring to Russia and its allies Belarus and Ukraine.

Moscow objects to the way the last big climate conference, held in Doha, Qatar, closed in December -- the chairman gavelling through a deal in spite of Russian objections.

The issue goes to the heart of the climate negotiating procedure, in which decisions are supposed to be made by consensus but with no clear definition of what this entails.

The Doha deal extended the Kyoto Protocol on curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but hamstrung Russia's planned sale of 5.8 billion tonnes of carbon credits amassed under the protocol's first round, which expired at the end of last year.

Asked who would take part in the drive to bring Russia back on board, Runge-Metzger listed the European Union, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Fiji and Singapore, as well as the SBI's Polish chairman and the UNFCCC secretariat.

"Everybody has an interest," he said, adding the talks would be informal and conducted on a senior official level, at least at first.

The Bonn gathering is being held to prepare for the November 11-22 annual UNFCCC meeting in Warsaw.

The SBI was meant to start a discussion on a global mechanism to compensate countries which suffer climate change-related loss and damage, as well as draft the next budget for the UNFCCC secretariat.

It was also meant to work on a review of whether the UN target of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels should be lowered to a safer 1.5 C (2.7 F).

Delegates say they hope the lost time can be made up in Warsaw but admit they have no assurances that Russia will have lifted its blockade by then.

While most delegates agree that Russia has a point on procedure, they are critical of the route it has taken.

"It is sad the SBI hasn't gone forward, it has huge implications for the issue of loss and damage," said Azeb Girmai, representing a group of the least-developed countries.

"We are already losing our lives, homes and our livelihoods."

Work went ahead in the other two bodies, including the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) which is preparing the new deal, and negotiators said progress was made.

The pact must take effect by 2020, and will for the first time commit all the world's nations to curbing emissions.

In Bonn, Europe suggested a hybrid system with elements from both a "bottoms-up" approach favoured by the United States, in which nations determine their own limits, and a "top-down" system in which targets are imposed.

Under the European idea, nations would determine their own pledges but have these reviewed for adequacy by their peers before they are signed into the new, binding deal.

The ADP finished its work on Thursday with its chairman Harald Dovland stressing that there were just over 900 days left to the 2015 conference in Paris that must adopt the new deal.

"I am getting a bit fed up with the finger pointing we are doing when we talk about climate change," he said as delegates adopted the group's work report.

"I hope you can find a constructive tone in solving what is probably the most important problem in the world."

© 2013 AFP

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