Figueres Urges Smaller Steps on Climate Change as UN Warming Talks Resume

Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres took charge of United Nations climate talks, calling on nations to do the “politically possible” and take smaller steps rather than striving for an all-encompassing deal to halt global warming.

After the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December failed to produce a new treaty, about 190 countries are still grappling to agree on more ambitious greenhouse-gas cuts to contain the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The task has a “rapidly rising scale and urgency,” Figueres told delegates today at the start of five days of negotiations in Bonn.

“We cannot cross the ocean on a single gust of wind, but if we don’t raise the sails now, we may never discover a safer world,” said Figueres, who took over from Yvo de Boer on July 8. “Time is not on our side. Decisions need to be taken, perhaps in an incremental manner.”

Countries today are debating future greenhouse gas cuts under the Kyoto Protocol, the only existing climate treaty, whose targets expire in 2012. The pact sets limits for all developed countries except the U.S., which never ratified it.

Yemeni delegate Abdullah al-Saidi, speaking for the G-77 group of developing countries and China, and Vincent Makonga, a Congolese envoy speaking for Africa, both said the Bonn talks need to agree on an aggregate level of emissions cuts by 2020 for developed countries.

Pledges to Cut

At present, the UN estimates that pledges amount to a cut of 12 percent to 19 percent from 1990 levels, short of the 25 to 40 percent needed to meet the 2-degree goal.

The 27-member European Union has said it’ll increase its 20 percent reduction pledge to 30 percent if other major polluters also take action. The U.S., the biggest developed emitter has said it won’t join the Kyoto Protocol and has yet to pass domestic legislation that enshrines an emissions target.

“We cannot wait for parties outside the Kyoto Protocol to find motivation before we engage the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period machinery,” Grenada’s Dessima Williams told delegates, referring to the U.S.

The UN last month published a document outlining various legal options open to countries should they fail to agree a new set of targets under the protocol before current targets expire in 2012. The stopgap measures include extending present goals by another two years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in Bonn at amorales2@bloomberg.net.

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