Climate Gridlock Frustrating Envoys at UN Talks in Doha

International efforts to curb global warming are moving so slowly that that delegates from both rich nations and poorer ones are expressing frustration with the process.

“I don’t see as much public interest for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions,” Christiana Figueres, the diplomat organizing two weeks of United Nations climate-change talks in Doha, said at a briefing yesterday. “Each one of us needs to assume responsibility. It’s not just about national governments. It’s about individuals. It’s about civil society.”

Her comments were echoed by delegates at the 190-nation talks from the European Union to Swaziland and Switzerland, underscoring concerns that this year’s round of discussions will make little progress toward the goal of protecting the environment from fossil-fuel emissions.

“We’ve achieved nothing this week, and I’m very concerned,” Bolivian delegation chief Rene Orellana said in an interview. “We’re fried.”

In a speech to delegates, Orellana said that failing to increase emissions-reduction pledges means, “we will have condemned the planet to cook itself from 2020, and lives will be at stake.”

The ambitions of the gatherings have been scaled back since 2009, when the group in Copenhagen failed to agree on a grand bargain that would limit greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide.

‘Blame Game’

“The situation is turning into a blame game,” Emmanuel Dlamini of Swaziland, who speaks for the group of African nations, said at a briefing yesterday. “It’s not designed to address the real problems.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said developed countries need to cut emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels to meet its target of constraining warming since the industrial revolution to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit). Just Norway and Monaco among developed nations have submitted pledges in that range.

Delegates have been negotiating in two parallel sets of discussion and last year decided to open a third track. The new track aims at a treaty by 2015 that would come into force by 2020. This year’s meeting is aimed at closing the first two tracks and concentrating on the third.

“There’s not been much progress made” on either track or on finance, China’s lead negotiator, Su Wei, said in an interview. “Certainly we cannot resolve all the issues in Doha.”


While Figueres said she expects “substantial progress” tomorrow and a successful conclusion on Dec. 7, other envoys say two of the three tracks of negotiation are bogged down.

One channel is to extend the Kyoto Protocol limiting fossil fuel emissions in industrial countries. It may produce a text by Dec. 5, when senior ministers are due in Doha to seal the pact. On another, known as the Long Term Cooperative Action track, envoys have yet to decide how to fold unresolved issues into the new discussions.

“On the LCA relatively little has been achieved,” said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Union’s chief envoy in Doha. “At the moment I wouldn’t think the balance is there. There’s more that negotiators need to do to get balance in these negotiations.”

Rising Seas

African nations and the Alliance of Small Island States expressed frustration that delay risks annihilating their countries. Organizations from the World Bank to the International Energy Agency warned the pace of warming is accelerating, melting ice and raising sea levels.

Along with the G77 group of about 130 developing nations and China, they’re calling for industrial nations to ramp up climate aid to $60 billion annually by 2015, from a total of $30 billion over the last three years. China’s Su also said more progress is needed to overcome developed countries’ concerns about intellectual property rights and transfer clean energy and efficient technologies to developing countries.

“We need to take measures to ensure technology is transferred at reasonable cost that is affordable by developing countries,” Su said. “We’re not going to request technology transfer free of charge. We certainly respect IP rights.”

Oceans worldwide rose by an average of about 11 millimeters (0.43 inches) from 1992 to 2011 as ice sheets near both poles melted, according to an article in the journal Science.

“The offer on the table is deeply inadequate,” said Sai Navoti, lead negotiator for the AOSIS bloc of 43 island nations. “How many conferences do we have to endure where we go back to our countries and say, ‘next year we will increase ambition to reduce emissions, next year we will see finance, next year we will save the climate? No more next years.’”

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