U.S. Diverges From EU on Durban Climate Pact

The U.S. and the European Union gave contradictory views about a key proposal at United Nations climate talks as envoys drew up a 100-page document outlining conclusions for the meeting aimed at fighting global warming.

Artur Runge-Metzger, the EU environment representative, said the 27-nation bloc’s call for a “road map” pointing toward the next climate treaty is “advancing.” Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. deputy envoy on climate, said the measure is meeting “strong resistance” with some developing countries.

The comments indicate divisions about the most controversial issues at the annual global warming talks after a week of talks with officials. Tomorrow, the diplomats will publish a draft text proposing outcomes for the meeting before ministers and 10 heads of state gather to debate the pact.

“We see very good progress on a package of measures to do with adaptation” to climate change, Christiana Figueres, the UN diplomat coordinating the talks, said at a briefing today in Durban, South Africa. “Durban will move forward with adaptation.”

Her comments sidestepped the question over whether the meeting will extend the current climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, whose limits on greenhouse gases expire in 2012.

China and India, which have no restrictions under the treaty, are leading a bloc of developing nations demanding industrial nations sign up for new commitments. Japan, Russia and Canada already refused to extend the pact. The U.S. never ratified it.

EU Proposal

The EU, which has done the most to limit carbon dioxide fumes under Kyoto, said it would only sign up to more cuts if all polluters back a mandate in Durban envisioning a new legally binding treaty by 2015 that would come into force by 2020.

“This goal is advancing,” Runge-Metzger said at a press conference today. “Many countries see the goal of keeping the warming to 2 degrees requires a good action. Many parties can see that waiting until 2015 or longer to start discussing the next steps will simply be too late. This process takes time.”

Pershing said the U.S. wouldn’t adopt new targets without the involvement of developing nations. China and India have become two of the three biggest polluters since Kyoto was negotiated in 1997.

U.S. View

“My own sense from what I’m hearing from the major parties is that while some want it, others do not, and I have not observed a sense in my discussions that they’re prepared to change their minds; and by that I mean the major economies, the major emerging economies, which have indicated strong resistance to having to undertake at this stage a commitment to a legally- binding obligation,” Pershing said at a press conference. “In that context, the U.S. also would not be prepared to undertake legally-binding obligations.”

Chinese envoy Su Wei earlier this week said the EU proposal was “shifting the goal posts” away from an agreement in 2007 where the UN talks set out plans to extend Kyoto. Brazil’s delegate said he couldn’t see any conclusion from Durban that didn’t include an extension of Kyoto.

The document due tomorrow includes proposed conclusions from the Long Term Cooperative Action track of the UN climate talks, a process that envisions a treaty outside the Kyoto structure. It will span 22 chapters covering measures that help nations adapt to climate change and the financial mechanisms aimed at channeling aid to developing nations, Figueres said.

‘Not Perfect’

“The text that appears tomorrow morning is not a perfect text,” Figueres said. “It gives them a very good sense what the package is going to look like next week. That will include the work that has been done on the technology mechanism, on the adaptation committee.”

Heads of state from 10 nations including Ethiopia, Gabon, Nauru, Senegal and Fiji arrive in time for the ministerial portion of the talks beginning Dec. 6. EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Todd Stern from the U.S. State Department will lead their delegations.

The meeting is scheduled to finish on Dec. 9.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Chipman in Washington at kchipman@bloomberg.net; Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

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

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