UN climate chief sounds more upbeat as summit enters final phase (Second Lead)

December 11th, 2008 - 1:29 am ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 10 (IANS) Though issues of financing developing countries or transferring technologies to help them combat global warming remained unresolved as the Dec 1-12 climate change summit entered its final phase Wednesday night, the UN’s climate chief was upbeat about what had been achieved.Over 3,000 negotiators from 186 countries struggled throughout Wednesday to agree on text that they could pass on to the ministers arriving for the “high-level segment” Thursday and Friday.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said there had been progress on:

* Moving towards a “negotiating text” for a treaty to combat climate change that would be finalised by the next summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.

* On the operationalisation of the Adaptation Fund meant to help least developed countries (LDC) cope with climate change, an area where he described the glass as being “four-fifths full” on Wednesday evening; the unresolved issue is whether LDC governments can get money from this fund directly.

* On assessing risks due to climate change and the “possibility of creating an insurance mechanism” to cover these risks.

* On reforming the clean development mechanism (CDM) that rewards green technologies in developing countries, though there was still disagreement on whether carbon capture and storage (mainly emissions from coal-fired power plants) would be included in it wholly, partially, now, later or not at all.

* On the programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank to get private sector resources for green technology development, though the UNFCCC’s own negotiations on technology transfer remained deadlocked.

* On rewarding developing countries that control deforestation, though de Boer admitted that there was no agreement on how to measure this benefit in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and the talks would continue beyond the Poznan summit.

De Boer said: “On the whole things are looking pretty good and we’d have cleared the decks by the time the ministers arrive.” He expected the ministers - who are scheduled to meet at a roundtable Thursday - to send out a political signal that would help build a strong treaty to combat climate change.

Despite de Boer’s enthusiasm, a senior member of the Indian government delegation here reiterated that the climate summit had reached a state of stasis.

India’s Minister of State for Environment and Forests Namo Narayan Meena had cancelled his trip here for the high-level segment, members of the Indian government delegation said. They said the minister was busy with political activities in the wake of the Rajasthan elections.

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 the Poznan summit, this meant that talks on industrialised country commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and on the financial mechanism to help developing countries cope with climate change remained bogged down.

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 that had earlier committed financing and technology transfers to developing countries to help them combat climate change are now stepping back, citing lack of money.

“Unless industrialised countries tell us what they have done so far to meet their legal obligations (under the Kyoto Protocol) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and what they are going to do, how can we go forward,” the Indian diplomat told IANS.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the senior member of the Indian government delegation here said: “There will be some procedural adjustments here and there, but on the big questions, I do not see any sign right now of any movement forward.

“But we still have two days before the summit ends. Let us see what happens.”

As for the industrialised countries, 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”.

Behind closed doors, industrialised countries, especially Japan, are continuing to press India and China to make legally binding commitments to cap their greenhouse gas emissions, a member of a Japanese NGO said, 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.

“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 clear it does not want this written down in an international declaration.

Even the president of the conference, Poland’s Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, agreed that there were major problems at the summit on Wednesday, but expressed the hope that the conference would “adopt everything by Friday evening”.

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

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