China Says Climate Talks Stalled Over Lack of Commitments to Cut Emissions

China said a failure by developed nations to honor their commitments to cut greenhouse-gas emissions is hindering progress in talks in Tianjin aimed at reaching an agreement to tackle climate change.

Negotiations between delegates from about 175 governments in Tianjin, northern China, are being held up as the host country declined to discuss the legal framework for a second set of emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol after the first expires in 2012.

China is boycotting the talks because developed countries listed in the Protocol are trying to add a global target rather than discuss their individual commitments, said Huang Huikang, China’s special representative for climate change negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Our intervention is not to block discussions of the Kyoto Protocol group, we just want to keep the group’s discussion the right way,” Huang told reporters today. “The key issue is the lack of substantive progress on the developed countries’ side.”

The holdup prevents discussion on countries’ commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from going forward, Jurgen Lefevere, an EU climate adviser and co-chair of the Kyoto Protocol working group, said in an interview this week.

Countries are unwilling to finalize emissions commitments until they know what new rules will cover issues like land use or agriculture, he said. China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil are the main blockers, he said.

Last Chance

In New Zealand, where about 50 percent of emissions come from agriculture, a rule change could affect the country’s emissions reduction target by as much as 4 percent, the New Zealand delegation said today in a meeting.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” Australia’s delegation said of the impasse.

The Tianjin meeting is the last chance before envoys meet in Cancun, Mexico, for Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 talks to help reach an agreement that even the United Nations has said is unlikely this year. The last climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to produce a binding agreement even after leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama flew in to try to hammer out a deal.

The Copenhagen talks broke down over issues including setting a global emissions reduction target and developing a system to measure and verify emissions cuts. Specifically, the U.S. and others wanted China and some larger developing countries to accept higher scrutiny of their reduction measures. China said richer nations should pledge deeper emissions cuts.

‘This Precondition’

“The precondition is mitigation by developed countries and money to support developing countries, as well as technology,” Huang said today. “Without this precondition, it’s unfair to ask developing countries to do more.”

The U.S. lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing said this week that the U.S. is willing to be flexible with poorer nations even though China, India and Brazil have the “capacity” to be transparent about their emissions reduction measures.

“I don’t think this is a big problem for China, China’s Huang said today. “Our main concern now is that developed countries honor their commitment first, then we will seriously consider sitting down to discuss other issues.”

The time may have come for the U.S. and China to “have negotiations inside the negotiations” to prevent the issue derailing progress on other issues, Dessima Williams, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States and Grenada’s ambassador to the UN, said today in an interview.

“It’s the brinkmanship game again, if you don’t jump, I won’t jump,” she said. “This is not a correct approach to negotiations because people’s lives are at stake.”

China, the most populous country and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is hosting a meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for the first time.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net.

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