The U.N. climate change chief urged governments on Monday to make real steps towards a new treaty to fight global warming or risk throwing negotiations into doubt.
Negotiators are meeting in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin to try reach agreement on what should follow the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the key treaty on climate change, which expires in 2012.
The fraught U.N. talks have been hobbled by lack of trust between rich and poor nations over climate funds, demand for more transparency over emissions cut pledges and anger over the size of cuts offered by rich nations.
Delaying agreement would leave less time for the world to figure out how to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and would add to uncertainties weighing on companies unsure where climate policy and carbon markets are headed after 2012.
“Now is the time to accelerate the search for common ground,” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told hundreds of delegates at the opening session of the Tianjin talks, which last until Saturday.
The talks are the last major round before the year’s main climate meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun from Nov. 29.
Negotiators from nearly 200 governments failed to agree last year on a new legally binding climate pact. A meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009 ended in bitter sniping between rich and developing countries, and produced a non-binding accord that left many key issues unsettled.
Governments are struggling to overcome lingering distrust and turn a sprawling draft treaty dotted with caveats into a binding text, possibly by late 2011.
“A concrete outcome in Cancun is crucially needed to restore the faith and ability of parties to take the process forward, to prevent multilateralism from being perceived as a never-ending road,” she said in an opening speech at the meeting.
DROUGHTS AND FLOODS
Recent devastating floods in Pakistan and severe drought in Russia are the kind of severe weather that rising temperatures are likely to magnify if countries fail to make dramatic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, said Wendel Trio, the climate policy coordinator for Greenpeace.
“Countries need to show a bit more trust in each other, and for that trust we will need developed countries to come up with some clear signs about them wanting to commit to the pledges they have made in Copenhagen,” said Trio, who is at the Tianjin talks.
Figueres told Reuters in a separate interview that she hoped the Tianjin talks could agree on important specifics of a future pact, including how to manage adaptation funds and green technology to help poorer countries, and a program to support carbon-absorbing forests in Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance that the governments will agree on the creation of the fund,” she said of a proposal to create a climate fund to help poorer nations green their economies. But it might take “a longer period” for governments to agree on the sources of the proposed fund, she added.
Even if the negotiations make progress, the current pledges of governments to curb greenhouse gas emissions will not be enough to avoid pushing the world into dangerous global warming, roughly defined as a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above average pre-industrial temperatures, said Figueres.
“They’re not enough to guarantee even a two-degree rise in temperature, and we know that a two-degree rise does not guarantee survival for the most vulnerable countries,” she said in the interview.
Governments should nonetheless focus on securing formal pledges of the emissions cuts already proposed, “fully realizing it is a first, necessary but insufficient step”, she said.
(Editing by David Fogarty)
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