Climate Talks Near Impasse as China, India Seek Changes

China and India said they want to see revisions to one of the key texts outlining the conclusions of the United Nations climate talks, a move that threatens to unravel an agreement at the conference in Warsaw.

Envoys from the two countries rejected the use of the word “commitments” to greenhouse gas emissions limits without distinguishing between rich and poor nations. They also sought a specific promise from industrial countries on how they will reach a pledge to boost climate aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, saying $70 billion by 2016 would be appropriate.

“The text in general lacks balance,” Su Wei, chief negotiator for China at the talks, told delegates in the Polish capital today. “We had serious concerns about the word commitment. There are also other serious flaws in the text.”

Their suggestions crossed red lines set out by the U.S. and European Union and added to a log-jam at the meeting involving about 190 nations. The two weeks of discussions that were due to finish yesterday bogged down with a rift about who is to blame for damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and who should move first to fix it.

Knife Edge

“Climate change talks still on knife edge after a long night,” U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said on his Twitter feed before China and India spoke. “A few countries insisting on looking backwards. Could be a long day.”

The demands are important because all decisions at the conference are made by consensus, so a few countries making objections has the potential to block a deal.

While the Warsaw meeting was never meant to be a breakthrough in the fight against global warming, it was to put in place the key building blocks necessary for a treaty the delegates aim to agree in 2015 that would come into force five years later.

Envoys Deadlocked

The envoys deadlocked on finance, with China, India Bangladesh, Cuba, Nepal and Nicaragua demanding rich nations agree to an interim milestone on the way toward their $100 billion aid pledge. Nicaragua, speaking for a group of 130 countries, sought $70 billion in aid by 2016.

“We still don’t have a roadmap on finance. We have had proposals,” Indian envoy T.S. Tirumurti told the conference today. “The sense of urgency is missing.”

The U.S. and EU so far have resisted making more commitments on aid, partly because of their own economic difficulties and partly because they want aid to flow along with commitments from poorer nations on cutting emissions. Developing nations have no mandatory limits under the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty that remains the only global pact limiting global warming pollution.

`Endgame May Derail'

“The real annoyance seems to be on the lack of progress on financing,” said Bas Eickhout, a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the talks. “I have the feeling this deadlock can be broken by some kind of concession on a sub-target on finances in 2016. If not, this entire endgame may derail, which is the worst outcome.”

The typhoon that devastated the Philippines this month amplified the anger of developing countries that industrial nations are backtracking on previous pledges. Japan, Australia and Canada have watered down commitments on emissions. The Warsaw talks mark the first time since the UN started these discussions in 1992 that ambitions have been scaled back.

Record carbon emissions have lifted the Earth’s temperature about 0.8 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution, and the planet is on a path to exceed the UN-endorsed maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100. As a result, sea levels are rising, oceans are acidifying and glaciers and sea ice are melting. Scientists predict more freak weather, droughts and stronger storms.

Draft Text

“We are going to be leading to a 3- or 4-degree world,” said Gambian envoy Pa Ousman Jarju. “That is catastrophic for the least island states, small island states and the African continent.”

U.S. and European diplomats said they could live with a draft text released last night that would set out the conclusions of the meeting. They expressed concern that China and India wanted to revive a division between industrial and developing nations on how greenhouse gas cuts will be made in the next treaty, a divide that was eliminated two years ago.

“It was somewhat astonishing to hear my good friend from China to say commitments apply to only developed country parties,” U.S. Special envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern said. “I feel I’m going back in a timewarp.”

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