Climate treaty virtually written off this year

June 9th, 2010 - 7:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
Bonn, June 9 (IANS) Delegates from many of the 194 countries gathered here to prepare for the next climate summit in Mexico this November Wednesday virtually wrote off the chances of a legally binding treaty to combat global warming this year, but emphasised that their “frustratingly slow but important” talks were going well and were “rebuilding trust” between nations after last year’s fiasco in Copenhagen.

“Governments will meet this challenge because humanity has no other option,” incoming executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres said.

“There is no possibility of sustainable development for developing or industrialised countries without timely, ambitious and global response to climate change.”

That feeling was echoed by the leader of the Indian delegation, additional secretary in the environment ministry J.M. Mauskar, who said at a panel discussion: “I am positive because after two years we heard (here) parties talking to each other and not at each other. That’s a positive development which will restore trust and confidence” in the process of negotiating a global treaty to combat climate change.”

Global warming is already reducing farm output, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe and raising sea levels. However, given the difficulty countries had in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases - mainly carbon dioxide - that were warming the atmosphere, Mauskar emphasised the need “to optimise”.

“We should not go for maximisation or minimisation, with so many countries in the process. If we’re still stuck on that paradigm of this or that must be done then we’re in trouble on the road to Cancun (the Mexican city where the next summit is scheduled). But I’m optimistic,” Mauskar added.

Yu Qingtai, China’s special representative on climate talks, said: “Countries will always differ (on what to do) but that should not deter us from constructive dialogue. Fighting climate change will have to have the broadest possible international cooperation.”

All the panellists, plus Figueres later in the day, lowered expectations of reaching a legally binding global treaty this year.

The political accord that came out of the Copenhagen summit - and which has been backed by almost all large economies, including India, talked of the need to keep global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius. But that will inundate many islands, Collin Beck of the Solomon Islands - and vice chair of the Association of Small Island States - pointed out.

Beck emphasised the need to keep the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees, in which he was supported by Quamrul Islam Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who was speaking at the panel discussion on behalf of the Least Developed Countries group. But other panellists from the European Union, China, India and Brazil did not respond to this call.

Current pledges by rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will not keep temperature rise within two degrees, a point made by outgoing UN climate chief Yvo de Boer and with which his successor Figueres concurred.

She said: “Pledges that we have on the table now are not sufficient to either meet the two degree pledge in the Copenhagen Accord and certainly not to guarantee survival of the most vulnerable and the poorest.

“But my sense is that countries and governments are aware of this. What they have put on the table was what they could do at that moment. Now many are making concerted efforts at the domestic level to increase mitigation (of emissions) and adaptation (to climate change effects) but that will come on the international table later. I see this as an incremental effort,” Figueres maintained.

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

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