Climate talks near finale with agreements still on hold

December 10th, 2010 - 10:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Joydeep Gupta
Cancun (Mexico), Dec 10 (IANS) The annual UN climate summit entered its final day here Friday with all agreements still on hold, though many of the delegates from 193 countries were hopeful they would be able to announce the formation of a Global Climate Fund that would help poor countries tackle climate change.
The fund still has no money, however, nor a specific pledge of any. The prolonged bickering between developed and developing countries over the governance of this fund characterized the way negotiations have gone on all key issues during this Nov 29-Dec 10 conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, just as it has in previous climate summits.

As the earth gets warmer and the effects show in reduced farm output, more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and a rising sea, the 15,000-odd ministers, bureaucrats and observers gathered at this Mexican beach resort had hoped they would at least be able to finalize a mechanism by which green technologies would be transferred to poor countries.

That collapsed at the final hurdle, when rich countries refused to allow even a discussion on what to do about patented technologies. Then the US government representative said his country would only agree to “consider the formation” of the technology mechanism rather than announce the formation. Under the UN system all decisions must be by consensus, that meant talks on a technology mechanism will go on, just as they have done for 17 years now.

The same impasse dogged the most crucial issue of the extent to which industrialized and emerging economies would commit to controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) - mainly carbon dioxide - which are warming the atmosphere.

India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh moved the country’s position on this substantially, by offering to take on “binding (emission control) commitments under an appropriate legal framework”.

He was attacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties back home for having said this, because earlier India had held that emission control actions by developing countries must be voluntary and not subject to any global treaty. But even this offer and an earlier one that the controls would be subject to international monitoring failed to satisfy the US, which is seeking more “transparency” from China and India.

Negotiations on this crucial issue were continuing on the last morning and delayed the start of a “stock-taking plenary session” called by the conference president, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Patricia Espinoza. Delegates who kept going in and out of the closed-door negotiating session did not sound hopeful.

The current summit may well follow its predecessors in being extended by many hours, but most of the delegates and observers were skeptical that it would produce anything. So that left this summit with the possibility of a wishy-washy vision statement. There were lengthy negotiations even on that.

One sentence of the draft read countries would “work towards identifying a time frame for global peaking of emissions based on the best available scientific knowledge while enabling development to proceed in a sustainable mannerÂ…” An Indian delegate had changed that to “Â… scientific knowledge and equitable access to sustainable development”.

This was typical of what preoccupied the negotiators on the final day, and had already put on hold agreement to help control deforestation.

Espinoza kept appealing to the delegates “we really do not have more time”, as it became clearer that governments were buying more time till the next summit in Durban, South Africa, instead of taking any substantial steps to tackle climate change here and now.

Head of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner said even if the draft declaration was adopted, “we all will leave Cancun knowing very clearly that we have not very significantly changed the time window within which the world will be able to address climate change. That challenge remains.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeepgupta1@gmail.com)

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