U.S., Bolivia Say UN Climate Talks Lacking Progress

U.S. and Bolivian negotiators said climate talks in China are making little progress as issues including financing and carbon-emissions limits bog down envoys.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in a global treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol accord may splinter if no agreement is reached at the climate summit next month in Cancun, Mexico, Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. deputy special envoy on climate change, said today in Tianjin.

“The consequences of not having an agreement after Cancun are something to worry about,” Pershing said in a news briefing. “It may mean that we don’t use this process exclusively going forward.”

Officials from about 175 governments are meeting in China to craft a climate treaty and replace emissions targets set by the Kyoto Protocol that expire at the end of 2012. Talks in Copenhagen broke down last year over targets for industrialized nations and verification of output cuts in developing countries.

Bolivia’s delegation chief said little progress is possible unless developed countries pledge bigger cuts.

“We don’t see any kind of movement from developed countries to increase the level of emissions reduction,” said Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. “If we had a set of commitments that assured developing countries that the measures will cool the planet, these talks would be moving very well.”

U.S. Pledge

The U.S. pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels remains a sticking point in the talks, Solon said. The vow amounts to a 3 percent reduction from 1990 levels, less than the 5 percent required under the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. didn’t ratify.

Commitments remain insufficient to limit the average increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a target that was agreed on in Copenhagen last December.

Delegates from some countries aren’t willing to debate pledges they made at Copenhagen, meaning they aren’t included in the negotiating text, Jurgen Lefevere, a climate adviser to the EU, said in a briefing today.

“We’ve not been able to have that debate and frankly that really surprises us,” he said. “Mitigation should be one of the major themes of what we’re discussing and it’s what countries aren’t prepared to address.”

Last Chance

The Tianjin meeting is the last chance before envoys meet in Mexico for Nov. 29-Dec. 10 to try to reach an accord that even the UN has said is unlikely this year. The Copenhagen summit failed to produce a binding agreement even after leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama flew in to try to hammer one out.

Delegates this week are negotiating two draft proposals from a meeting in Bonn in August that need to be narrowed before Cancun, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said this week.

“Very few paragraphs” have changed, Bolivia’s Solon said.

Developing nations, including China, can’t accept the stringent international oversight of their efforts to cut domestic emissions that developed countries demanded at Copenhagen, Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Reform Development Commission of China, the country’s top economic planner, said earlier in the week.

Instead, the U.S. and developed nations should focus on raising their emissions targets, Su Wei, China’s chief negotiator on climate change, said yesterday, according to Agence France-Presse.

More Transparency

The U.S. and China, the two biggest emitters, have been deadlocked over issues including pollution-reduction goals and verification of emissions cuts.

Pershing said the U.S. was trying to reach a compromise with developing nations on monitoring, reporting and verification with less stringent requirements for poorer countries. More advanced countries like China should accept a higher standard, he said.

“There’s no question for Brazil, for an India or for a China that they could implement an MRV program and be transparent,” Pershing said. “It makes sense for countries with the capacity, who make major contributions to emissions globally and have resources to implement programs.”

Negotiations aren’t progressing because developing nations and developed nations are pitted against each other along an artificial divide that no longer makes sense, Pershing said. Some issues are being “re-litigated” that were supposed to be resolved at Copenhagen, he said, without giving details.

“My own view is that it could work, but it’s going to require a bit more fruitful discussion than we’ve had the last few days,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE