UN climate talks grope for post-Copenhagen path

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The first full-bore UN climate talks since Copenhagen were set to start Monday, with developing nations pushing for the 30 billion dollars promised them for the next few years.

The pledge of emergency funds from 2010 to 2012 to help poor countries green their economies and cope with climate change impacts was one of the few concrete measures to emerge from last year's nearly-failed Copenhagen summit.

But six months later there is no sign of the money, nor any clues on how it will be ramped up to at least 100 billion dollars annually by 2020, as stipulated in the Copenhagen Accord.

"We need real implementation of the funding, real action on the ground," said Dessima Williams, chief negotiator of Grenada, representing the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS).

"There is absolute and continued urgency."

Financing is only one of several thorny issues on the table as the 12-day talks under the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) get under way.

Negotiators must also work towards upholding the Accord's other core provision of preventing global temperatures from rising by more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

As they stand, voluntary pledges from industrialised nations and emerging giants such as China, even if they are met, would yield an increase of 3.0 C to 4.0 C, putting the planet on a trajectory for catastrophe, say scientists.

There are also complex wrangles over technology transfer, how to monitor and verify national plans to cut greenhouse gases, and the mechanisms for disbursing aide.

But despite these huge challenges the UN talks remain bogged down, unable even to decide on whether or how to incorporate the Copenhagen deal -- cobbled together by a handful of nations at the 11th-hour -- into the formal UN process.

Political ambition has also been dampened, both by the fallout from crushed expectations in the Danish capital, and continuing concerns about the fragile state of the world economy.

"The mood is one of realism and accepting incremental changes rather than one 'Big Bang' agreement," said Saleemul Huq, senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London.

Outgoing UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told journalists last week that the chances of forging a legally-binding climate treaty -- the avowed aim of all parties -- before year's end are now vanishingly small.

Since January, many nations have instead favoured a "building block" approach, constructing an agreement brick-by-brick outside the UN framework in a flurry of smaller, multilateral meetings focusing on a single region or sector.

One area in which that tack has borne fruit is in the effort to curb deforestation, which accounts for about 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

An initiative spearheaded by France and Scandinavian countries resulted last week in an agreement, unveiled in Olso, to boost funds to protect forests to four billion dollars up to 2012.

"We want to demonstrate that it's possible to start coordinated action [on forests] while we have formal negotiations under way at the UNFCCC. The world needs to see this," Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told journalists days before the deal was sealed.

But some negotiators worry about whether a building block approach can deliver the efforts needed to beat back the threat of global warming.

"We have to be very careful that the piecemeal approach does not mean that the large overarching framework is not achieved, so that we wind up with a gap," Williams said.


© 2010 AFP

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