Negotiators frustrated by slow progress in climate pacts talks

4th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Diplomats in Germany wrangling over the text of a climate rescue pact with a December deadline looming, kicked the can further down the road Friday, frustrated at their own slow progress.

On the final day of a crucial negotiating round in Bonn, delegates sought help from the joint chairmen of the UN effort to compile a new, workable draft.

At the meeting's close, diplomats gave the duo, Algeria's Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, an official mandate to take on this.

"This document will be ready in October", Djoghlaf told journalists -- in time for the final five days of official negotiations in Bonn to prepare for the much-anticipated November 30-December 11 Paris conference to seal the deal.

The chairmen also announced the creation of a dedicated "drafting committee" with representatives from all countries, that will meet from the first day of the October 19-23 Bonn session.

"We have only 1,800 minutes (at the next meeting) to agree on the draft package for Paris," said Djoghlaf. "Every minute has value."

The existing blueprint is an 83-page behemoth with contradictory country proposals for dealing with the pressing climate threat.

Diplomats have lamented the "snail's pace" of this week's five-day haggle in Bonn, accusing one another of rehashing well-rehearsed positions and holding up the real work of point-by-point text bartering.

"We see very senior, experienced negotiators very frustrated because they are itching to get to the line-by-line negotiations, which we very much need to take place before we get to Paris," European negotiator Elina Bardram told AFP.

- No time for chit chat -

It is time for "direct, inclusive, and interactive negotiations" said Gurdial Singh Nijar, a Malaysian negotiator and spokesman for the Like Minded Developing Nations bloc, which includes China, India, and many African, South American, Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

"The time for talking about concepts and general chit chat is over," he added.

The Paris agreement is meant to slow the march of dangerous global warming by slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from mankind's unbridled burning of fossil fuels.

The overarching goal is to limit average warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Fundamental divisions remain over how to share out carbon-emissions cuts between rich nations, which have polluted for longer, and emerging giants such as China and India powering fast-growing economies and populations.

"For the sake of expediency, the co-chairs will need to prepare a basis for negotiations well ahead of the next session in October," said Amjad Abdulla, a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States.

"We hope it reflects the areas of common understanding found this week so we can hit the ground running in Bonn and build momentum for a successful outcome in Paris."

The year-end conference will open in the presence of heads of state who will be keen to avoid a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen conference, which failed to produce a universal climate deal.

Delegates said they made piecemeal progress in the past week on some conceptual issues, but the overall objective of a universal deal remained far off.

France's climate envoy Laurence Tubiana believes the chairmen's intervention can go a long way towards providing "a clear, global picture".

"I'm very happy that... the milestones are very clear, we know where we are going by October and the text will be the base where we can engage in full negotiating mode."

- High stakes -

A timely reminder of the urgency came on Wednesday, when scientists warned that on current carbon-cutting pledges the world was on track for warming of three degrees Celsius, a sure recipe for catastrophic storms, droughts, disease spread, water shortages, and sea level rise.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said Friday that while some might be getting impatient with the pace of negotiations, she was convinced of countries' commitment to an ambitious Paris pact.

"Frankly it is ultimately the outcome that is the important thing," she said.

But Greenpeace climate campaigner Li Shuo said many feared a "lowest-common-denominator situation, which is nobody would agree with anybody and then everybody just agree on the least ambitions option".

"The question is not whether or not we will have a deal. But I think the quality of the deal is in question," he told AFP.

Figueres also announced that countries have put forward the 1.2 million euros ($1.3 million) that had been needed to pay for developing country negotiators to attend the rest of this year's meetings.

© 2015 AFP

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