U.S. Says Countries `Backtracking' on Copenhagen Climate Change Agreement
The U.S. is concerned that envoys at United Nations climate talks are “backtracking” on an agreement made in 2009 in Copenhagen, the country’s lead negotiator at the talks said.
Some nations are demanding “staggering sums” of money beyond the $100 billion pledged in Copenhagen to help them adapt to climate change, and others want carbon dioxide reductions to apply only to industrialized countries, said Jonathan Pershing, the State Department official heading the U.S. delegation.
The moves make it less likely delegates will agree on broader measures to rein in greenhouse gases and channel funds to poor nations when this year’s round of talks conclude in December in Cancun, Mexico, Pershing said. His comments coincided with wildfires brought on by drought in Russia and flooding in Pakistan that stranded 4 million people, freak weather events that scientists say will become more frequent.
“If we proceed on the route we are now on, there is no hope for an agreement” in Cancun, said Pershing. “All parties seem to be having a difficult time coming to convergence and the text is larger than it has to be.”
Delegates from about 190 countries this week in Bonn piled new demands into draft texts in both negotiating tracks. Two draft proposals offered legal options on how to avoid a gap between the end of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 and a future agreement, said Christiana Figueres, the UN diplomat leading the talks. She said delegates must now narrow the options that more senior ministers will face in Cancun.
“It’s difficult to cook a meal without a pot,” she said. “Governments are closer now to making the pot, and that is what they have achieved here in Bonn.”
The envoys reopened debates that were resolved in the Copenhagen Accord, including approaches toward cutting emissions between industrialized and developing countries and how to measure and verify greenhouse gas output.
“If we can close the text with no more new ideas -- let’s save that for another century -- then we can move forward,” said Grenada’s Dessima Williams, who represents the Alliance of Small Island States. “The negotiations are not matching the scientific reports, and they are too slow and not sufficiently responsive to the urgency we see on the ground.”
Current pledges by all nations remain insufficient to limit the average increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which was also agreed to in Copenhagen last year. The UN estimates that commitments amount to a cut of 12 percent to 19 percent from 1990 levels, short of the 25 to 40 percent needed.
“What is happening now reminds me of what was happening last year,” said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission’s lead climate negotiator. “It seems to me like a broken record.”
Negotiators are also struggling with the fact that it may be years before the U.S. passes domestic laws on limiting emissions, said Christoph Bals, executive director of policy at the environmental group Germanwatch and an executive board member of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative.
“The U.S. is casting a long shadow on the talks,” Bals said. “For the next few years it will be up to China and the EU to take a leadership role.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a scaled down energy bill on July 22 that failed to contain a carbon cap for the electricity industry, a carbon emissions trading system or renewable energy targets. The U.S. delegation remains committed to its target to cut CO2 emissions by about 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, Pershing said today.
At stake are decisions on investments worth trillions of dollars in clean energy, efficiency and transportation equipment, including an estimated $26 trillion for the power sector alone through 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.
Some nations need to make proposals instead of criticizing what industrial nations are offering, said Mohamed Adow, an observer with non-governmental group Christian Aid.
“We need to regain the spirit of compromise in order to move forward,” he said.
Business leaders including General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt and Duke Energy Corp.’s Chief Executive Jim Rogers have pushed for comprehensive legislation, highlighting the risks of inaction for the U.S. economy. Investment decisions are made more difficult because of uncertainties over potential cost of energy if carbon emissions are regulated, they’ve said.
“The question is what’s next?” said Norine Kennedy, vice president of energy and environment affairs at the U.S. Council for International Business whose members include GE and Coca- Cola Co. “We have to find a way to move forward.”