Climate: Steps seen in UN talks but dangers lurk

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A round of UN climate talks was wrapping up here Friday, helped by a dose of trust after the Copenhagen Summit but still troubled by the splits which drove that historic conference close to disaster.

After 12 days of talks, delegates were issued with a gingerly-worded document which seeks to revive the quest towards a post-2012 climate treaty following the squabbles in Copenhagen last December.

If approved, the draft text would become an official blueprint for negotiations.

And in turn, if all goes well, that would culminate in a deal -- possibly by the end of 2011 -- which would slash emissions of greenhouse gases and channel billions of dollars in aid to poor countries in climate change's firing line.

After Copenhagen, where bickering and nit-picking brought the world's biggest summit close to a breakdown, the mood in Bonn showed a good improvement, delegates said.

The talks were the mid-way point to the next big UNFCCC gathering, taking place in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10.

But beneath the brighter tone, problems of substance remained.

Major blocs set down early markers of their opposition to the tentative text, drafted by Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, who chairs the main negotiating group.

"Whilst the mood amongst negotiators has mostly been more constructive than in April and last year, the underlying disagreements that derailed the talks in Copenhagen are still to be resolved," the British charity Oxfam observed.

The document puts forward a range of goals for cutting greenhouse gases, including slashing emissions by as much as 85 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, and sketches objectives for climate aid and deforestation.

But these aims are not unanimously shared, and debate is likely to be furious at the next round of talks in Bonn in August over how to share out the burden and where to place priorities. In addition, the text still has big gaps, including the legal status of the post-2012 treaty.

"The new text to facilitate the negotiations complicates the negotiations," said Pablo Solon, head of the Bolivian delegation.

"If this document is going to be the outcome of Cancun, then the future of humanity is really in danger."

Bolivia is leading a charge for the treaty to limit warming to only one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal seen as unfeasible by other countries, which say a rise of 1.5 C (2.7 F) or 2 C (3.6 F) is more attainable.

The so-called G-77 bloc of developing countries and, separately, the associations of African states, small island states and least-developed states, warned that they considered the text to have many gaps and be unfairly weighed in favour of rich economies.

"There is a fundamental divide among parties on these and many issues," said Dessima Williams of Grenada, for the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS).

"We've got problems with it (the text) as everyone has, but we are prepared to move forward on it as a basis for discussion... at least we've got a starting point," said South African delegate Alf Wills.

"Everyone will find something they like, as well as something they hate," said Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace.

Man-made greenhouse gases are a by-product of burning oil, gas and coal, which provides the backbone of today's energy supply, and from deforestation.

Colourless and odourless, these gases are accumulating in the lower atmosphere, trapping heat from the Sun in the famous "greenhouse" effect.

On current trends, warming from the Sun will so disrupt Earth's fragile climate system that many millions of people will face worse drought, flood, storm and rising seas by century's end, the UN's climate panel says.

© 2010 AFP

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