Ministers now to try and break logjam at climate summit

December 10th, 2008 - 5:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 10 (IANS) The Dec 1-12 climate summit here entered its penultimate stage Wednesday, deadlocked over almost all crucial issues and bureaucrats leaving it to their ministers to do whatever they could to fight global warming.The dreaded square brackets that indicate disagreement in UN texts peppered the documents prepared here for the ministers who will attend the “high-level segment” of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit Thursday and Friday.

Over 3,000 delegates from 186 countries failed to agree on most points despite prodding from over 5,000 NGO representatives from around the world present here.

Host country Poland’s Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki convened a roundtable of ministers later Wednesday in an effort to break at least part of the logjam.

The issues on which the negotiators were stuck stemmed from two fundamental sources. One, the distrust between industrialised and developing countries over who was doing what to accelerate climate change or to combat it. Two, the ongoing global financial meltdown.

Specifically, at this Poznan summit, this meant that talks were bogged down Wednesday morning on commitments of industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; on the financial mechanism to help developing countries cope with climate change; and over whether carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be rewarded.

Industrialised countries have put into the atmosphere almost all the extra greenhouse gases that are warming the world. Climate change is already leading to lowered farm output, more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and a rise in sea level, with developing countries bearing the brunt of the impacts.

The industrialised countries are now stepping back from their earlier commitment to finance and transfer technology to developing countries to help them combat climate change, citing lack of money.

The US government delegation, which had obstructed progress towards the fight in earlier summits, is quiet this year, but its place has been taken by Japan, Canada and sometimes New Zealand and Australia.

A Japanese delegate said at a plenary session of the summit that industrialised countries could not be expected to become “the ATMs of the world”.

India has made a plea for a strong statement of intent from Poznan to combat climate change. “My country is impacted (by climate change). I want an ambitious outcome (in Poznan) which is equitable and fair,” a senior member of the Indian government delegation said on condition of anonymity.

Behind closed doors, industrialised countries are continuing to press large developing countries such as India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico to make legally binding commitments to cap their greenhouse gas emissions, though per capita emissions in India are just over one tonne of carbon dioxide a year, compared to 11 tonnes in European Union (EU) countries and 20 in the US.

The EU delegation has now put it in a different way in this summit. “We want three types of mitigation actions by developing countries,” a EU delegate said, requesting anonymity.

“Low-cost and win-win actions, with some international support to address barriers; appropriate additional actions supported by international resources; and further mitigation through international crediting mechanisms.”

All these steps are being taken by India anyway, though the government is unlikely to want this written down in an international declaration.

While delegates were frustrated by the lack of progress, indigenous community representatives were even more so. The recognition of their traditional rights over non-timber forest products had been dropped from the agreed text over reducing missions by tackling deforestation.

The negotiators do have the rest of Wednesday to try and narrow down differences, but the Indian government delegate said one of the main expected outcomes of the Poznan summit - a “negotiating text” for a global treaty that could be finalised by the end of next year - was unlikely to be ready by Friday.

He said the “negotiating text” would now probably be ready in time for an UNFCCC meeting of all member countries scheduled in Bonn next June, and actual negotiations were likely to start only in September next year.

“But that gives us plenty of time before December,” he was confident.

The current Poznan summit is the first time ministers are meeting after the Bali summit last year, and the last time they are scheduled to meet before the Copenhagen summit, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer pointed out, adding that he expected the ministers to give a strong political push to the negotiators so that the fight against climate change was taken up more vigorously.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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