Envoys at United Nations global warming talks are closing in on an agreement to protect forests, stimulate aid to developing nations and establish a body to advise countries on adapting to higher temperatures.
The proposed package, which must win the backing of delegates from 193 nations before the meeting ends in Cancun, Mexico, requires richer countries and poorer ones to set aside differences about how to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“Brazil fully supports the document,” said Izabella Teixeira, the environment minister of Brazil, which was tapped by the UN to help find a compromise. “Let’s adopt it.”
A UN document suggesting conclusions pushed until next year debate on how to reduce fossil fuel emissions once the current restrictions in the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012. While Bolivia said it objected to “many” parts of the text, observers at the talks said the compromises outlined may well stick.
“They seem to have solved the Kyoto conundrum,” said Tim Gore, policy adviser for Oxfam. “They seem to have a system which will give enough confidence to developing countries that the Kyoto Protocol will move ahead.”
Bolivia, which along with six other countries blocked last year’s accord in Copenhagen, said it wanted delegates to negotiate on its demands for an international court to police emissions cuts and about the rights of indigenous peoples.
“We won’t be blackmailed,” Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s envoy at the talks, said at a briefing. “We won’t give up to ‘take it or take it’ conditions.”
Elements of Plan
The deals suggested in a draft UN text include:
-- A “Green Climate Fund” that would manage a “significant share” of the $100 billion pledged last year in climate aid from richer to poorer nations. The World Bank was invited to manage the fund.
-- A technology mechanism would be set up to help developing nations tap low-carbon products such as wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-saving devices. Further market mechanisms will be debated at next year’s conference in Durban, South Africa.
-- A forest protection program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. It would fund forestry projects for developing nations. A mention of the programs tapping carbon markets was dropped from the UN draft text.
-- A “Cancun Adaptation Framework” which would help assess the needs of the most vulnerable nations to adapt to the effects of higher temperatures such as rising sea levels, increased droughts and melting glaciers.
-- A package of details on how to monitor, report and verify emissions reductions by developed countries and climate protection actions taken by poorer ones, or MRV in UN jargon.
“These drafts represent real and very substantive progress,” Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign secretary who is leading the talks, told delegates who gave her a standing ovation for her efforts. “Every view has been taken into account. Each of you will have to live with the consequences of our choices and of our actions.”
The text did not outline tighter emission targets from any nation, referring instead to figures that will be published later covering cuts from industrial and developing nations.
The lack of an extension or a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol may boost the cost of fighting climate change, said David Hone, chairman of the International Emissions Trading Association, a Geneva-based lobby group,
“If there is no international cohesiveness, it makes it more difficult for a responsive market-based approach to develop,” said Hone, also Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s climate adviser. “This ultimately leads to a higher-cost solution for everyone,” he said in a phone interview from London.
The dispute about how to replace or extend Kyoto marred the two weeks of talks and nearly derailed them. China, India, Brazil and South Africa pressed industrial nations to agree to new restrictions on fossil fuel emissions once Kyoto finishes. Japan, Canada and Russia refused, saying the accord excludes the world’s two biggest polluters, the U.S. and China.
“The negotiations are not completely fulfilled,” China’s delegation chief Xie Zhenhua told delegates at the conference. “The negotiations in the future will continue to be difficult.”
Compromise wording keeps alive the possibility that Kyoto is extended while not committing any nation to make new promises. The UN document said countries will move as soon as possible to ensure there is no gap between the Kyoto treaty’s first commitment period expiring in 2012 and the next round of cuts. It suggests “further work” will need to be done.
“This is a good paper, and a good basis for moving forward,” Kuni Shimada, the Japanese envoy, said in an interview, praising the work of the Mexican foreign minister. “She could have closed the meeting with it and that would be the happy ending. She deserved her standing ovation.”
The UN text suggests the world keep temperature gains below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and consider whether to make the pledge 1.5 degrees. Current emissions reduction pledges could lead temperatures to rise up to 5 degrees by 2100, the UN Environment Program said Nov. 23.
“I’m really disappointed, because we’re toying around the edges,” Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana, said in an interview Dec. 9. “Positions are watered down. The greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere.”
Last year, Bolivia joined Venezuela, Sudan, Cuba, Nicaragua and Tuvalu in blocking the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement brokered by about 30 leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, from being adopted as a formal UN text.
“There’s more work to do, but we’re willing to accept a compromise,” Quamrul Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi envoy, said in an interview.
A draft text covering possible extension of the Kyoto treaty notes that developed countries would need to cut combined emissions in the range of 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Targets for the first commitment period, from 2008 through 2012, seek to cut developed country emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels.
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