China, India, Brazil and South Africa said the U.S. must pledge deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to help make progress in United Nations climate talks, sharpening divisions between rich and poor countries on how to combat global warming.
The four developing nations at the talks in Cancun, Mexico, also called on industrialized economies to provide more aid for countries seeking to clean up their energy industries, adding to demands that the U.S. and European Union said may wreck the meeting.
“There is an agreement to be had,” U.S. lead climate negotiator Todd Stern said yesterday in Cancun. “I’m not sure whether we will actually get it. I think that question hangs in the balance.”
With the two-week conference involving 193 nations entering its final four days, the EU said negotiating documents are too complex and too full of disputed items for this stage in the talks. The remarks add to the chances negotiations may follow last year’s gathering in Copenhagen in failing to produce an agreed package of measures to keep a lid on global temperatures.
“The texts are still much too long,” said Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner in charge of climate policy, referring to UN documents outlining possible goals at Cancun. “There are much too many options. They are still too complicated.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are among the 35 leaders arriving for the final days of the conference. U.S. President Barack Obama, who attended last year in Copenhagen, is not coming this time. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opens the segment of the talks for country leaders today at 3 p.m. in Cancun.
The delegates are looking for ways to curb fossil fuel emissions blamed for global warming once limits agreed in the 1997 Kyoto treaty expire in 2012. After failing to reach a legally-binding agreement last year, the UN scaled back ambitions for this meeting, focusing on agreeing regulations to protect forests, verify emissions cuts and channel up to $100 billion a year in climate aid to developing nations.
A UN text sketching out the options for Cancun says the nations of the world need to limit temperature increases since the 1700s to “below 2 degrees Celsius.” Carbon dioxide emissions have risen 40 percent from 1990 to 2008, double the level that would produce a 3.5 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures, the International Energy Agency said yesterday.
The U.S., the only industrialized country not to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, has pledged to cut emissions about 17 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels. That amounts to a zero reduction from 1990, the baseline for Kyoto, according to India Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
“The U.S. offer is disappointing to say the least,” he said yesterday. He joined the other developing nations in insisting that the industrial countries make a second round of commitments under Kyoto, an effort that the UN says is not possible at this meeting.
“We need to stick to the Kyoto Protocol because it’s the result of a long-term effort and the only legally binding document on emissions reductions,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s top official on climate policy, said at a briefing yesterday in Cancun. “We need to continue the second commitment period.”
Both the U.S. and EU are pressing for a new climate agreement to include reduction pledges made earlier this year under the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding accord cobbled together in the Danish capital last year when treaty talks failed.
The U.S. wants the Copenhagen pact to serve as the basis for a new treaty that includes cuts from fast-growing countries like China and India. Japan, Russia and Canada have refused to sign up for a second round of cuts under Kyoto without developing country participation. China wants to stick with the Kyoto approach, which requires actions from only industrial countries.
The EU, which has committed to cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, urged all countries to make compromises, noting there were limits to what it could achieve.
“We can’t leave Cancun empty-handed,” Hedegaard said in a news conference.
Bolivia yesterday stepped up its call for rich nations to make deeper cuts. Its negotiator, Pablo Solon, also is resisting the forest protection measures, saying the methods being considered to count the stocks of carbon sequestered in trees don’t do enough to protect “the rights of nature.”
The Latin American country’s concerns are important because under the UN rules, which require consensus, any party to the talks can hold up progress with an objection.
The rich-nation targets in the 1997 Kyoto negotiation text range from 15 percent below 1990 levels in 2020 to 50 percent below by 2017, according to a document on the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The EU has said it will boost its reduction target to 30 percent if other countries also strengthen their commitments.
“What we need is that others also move,” Hedegaard said.