Durban talks come at bad time: UN climate chief

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UN climate talks that begin next month in South Africa coincide with a global financial crisis hurting efforts to raise money to fight climate change, the UN's climate chief said Wednesday.

"This is not the best time to be talking about finance, because all developed countries are in a financial crisis," Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told a press briefing ahead of the November 28 to December 9 talks in Durban.

She urged developed countries to think of the funds as a long-term need that will outlive the gloomy economic picture currently troubling the euro zone.

"The financial needs of climate, both for adaptation and for mitigation, are not short-term needs. They are long-term needs, and they need to be seen in that respect. The financial crisis is a financial crisis that we have now, but that is not a long-term crisis for the next 20, 30 years," she said.

Negotiators are trying to raise money for a Green Climate Fund that would give $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries to help fight climate change and its effects.

The fund was agreed at the 2010 climate talks in Cancun, but negotiators still have to hammer out where the money will come from and how it will be managed.

The other major issue on the agenda at Durban is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, whose current set of carbon curbs expires at the end of 2012.

Officials are calling Durban a make-or-break meeting for the future of the agreement, the only deal to date with legally binding commitments to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say spell disaster for the planet's health if left unchecked.

The host country's ambassador for the talks rejected the possibility of a new system of legally binding cuts to replace Kyoto, saying a too-ambitious agenda could wreck the negotiations.

"Talk of any legally binding instrument would be irresponsible, very irresponsible," said NJ Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa's ambassador-at-large for the conference.

"To even begin to suggest that the outcome of Durban must be a legally binding instrument would be irresponsible, because it will collapse the system."

Figueres said negotiators need to reach agreement on a "broader mitigation framework" that would combine a second round of Kyoto curbs with commitments from non-Kyoto countries to make comparable cuts.

The world's top two polluters, China and the US, are not part of the Kyoto Protocol's emissions cuts. And Canada, Japan and Russia have all said they will not sign up for a second round.

© 2011 AFP

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