Biggest Polluters Join in Opposing European Road Map for New Climate Pact

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Photographer: Markus Mauthe/LAIF

An iceberg calved from a glacier floats in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Greenland.

The world’s three biggest polluters joined in opposing a European Union proposal for talks aimed at drawing up a new climate treaty, dimming the chances of extending the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gases.

J.M. Mauskar, the Indian government official leading his nation’s delegation at United Nations climate talks, rejected the EU plan as a “quid-pro-quo.” The EU said it would agree to extend Kyoto’s restrictions only if all nations made promises to cut fossil fuel burning.

“Our objective in these negotiations is not to launch a process for a new climate treaty,” Mauskar told reporters at the talks yesterday in Durban, South Africa. “This is not what these current negotiations are about.”

India, along with the U.S. and China are united in opposing the EU’s timeline to a new deal. The 27-nation bloc that’s done the most to limit carbon dioxide fumes since Kyoto was signed in 1997, said it wouldn’t agree to more limits unless a treaty is signed by 2015 and in force by 2020.

The opposing positions may torpedo the chance of a deal on Dec. 9 when two weeks of talks in Durban finish. The EU has called its “road map” proposal a “red line” issue.

As hundreds of protesters demanding action on global warming marched down to Durban’s beach-front promenade, the UN released two documents spanning 143 pages that chart possible measures nations will take to boost flows of climate aid, step up efforts to cut greenhouse gases, share emissions-cutting technology and protect forests.

Cancun to Durban

The text is almost five times as long as the agreements from last year’s meeting in Cancun, Mexico. It must be streamlined by the senior ministers, 10 heads of state and two princes who join the discussions on Dec. 6.

“It’s a hundred and something pages,” Selwin Hart, an envoy from Barbados, said in an interview in Durban. “We know what the areas of disagreement are, and quite frankly we need a much shorter text that will allow for clear decision-making.”

The document includes paragraphs calling for the end of war and weapons production, the start of an international climate court of justice to hold developed countries to account for their pledges and a respect for the rights of “mother Earth.” One clause calls for climate aid equivalent to “the budget that developed countries spend on defense, security and warfare.”

The text includes four short options spanning half a page that address one of the thorniest topics: the legal nature of any future agreement.

‘Incomplete’

“It’s an incomplete text,” said Alden Meyer, a Washington-based director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In some areas it has everyone’s ideas in there. In others there’s not enough detail, like on the legal form where there’s four bullets.”

Heads of state will attend from 10 countries including Ethiopia, Gabon, and Nauru. EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Todd Stern from the U.S. State Department will lead their delegations.

The document 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. Many provisions in the text depend on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the subject of a separate track of discussions.

‘Deeply Concerned’

“We are deeply concerned that there has been hardly any progress on achieving the key objective of our negotiations, that is to announce the second commitment period and its targets,” said Mauskar from India, referring to post-2012 Kyoto targets.

Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei, Brazilian chief envoy Andre Correa do Lago, and Grenadian envoy Dessima Williams, who speaks for 42 island and low-lying nations, have all said new Kyoto targets are the key ingredients of any outcome in Durban.

Japan, Russia and Canada all reject new commitments under Kyoto because it covers less than a third of global emissions. The U.S. never ratified the deal, and developing countries including India and China don’t have binding targets.

Those three countries are now the “biggest barriers” to the road map proposal, EU lead negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said in a Dec. 1 interview. The 27-nation bloc has done the most to limit carbon-dioxide fumes under Kyoto and previously has been among the most flexible at the talks.

U.S. Position

Stern says the U.S. isn’t willing to begin dialogue on a new legally binding treaty until major developing countries such as China and India agree first to take on actions equivalent to those of the industrialized nations. U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said on Dec. 2 there is “strong resistance” from some “major emerging economies” on the EU’s proposal, and “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.

Su told environmentalists on Dec. 1 that China may agree to cap its greenhouse-gas emissions after 2020, confirming an earlier China Daily report, according to Meyer at the UCS. Earlier in the week Su brushed aside a report from an Indian news service suggesting the same thing.

“There’s this large picture effort to try to shift the focus from post-2012 to post 2020,” Meyer said. “There’s no sweet spot in the middle at this point.”

22 Chapters

The paper spans 22 chapters and includes a pledge made two years ago by developed countries to raise climate aid to $100 billion a year by 2020. Envoys are debating the makeup of a fund that will channel an unspecified portion of the aid. A 40-member committee spent nine months drafting rules to govern the pool of money, and negotiators are now consulting about the document after Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Venezuela objected.

“It’s clear that there’s a lot of work left over the next week,” Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview in Durban. “The really big decisions are still in the hands of ministers.”

Other chapters identify measures to protect forests, and a system to enhance the transparency of the measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by developing countries.

The document, described by its author, U.S. delegate Dan Reifsnyder as a “work in progress,” includes options that need to be narrowed down. In the section on a “shared vision” for future efforts to cut greenhouse gases, there are various options that would require developed countries to cut emissions by 30 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, 50 percent or more than 50 percent by 2020.

“We don’t like it,” Venezuelan negotiator Claudia Salerno said in an interview. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. He also requested us to take the weekend to read it slowly, reflect on it and make the balance and not make the same mistakes we make all the time which is to react quickly and to create a fuss.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Chipman in Durban, South Africa at kchipman@bloomberg.net; Alex Morales in Durban, South Africa via amorales2@bloomberg.net.

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

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