Prospects for UN climate deal 'brighter'

Prospects for a new United Nations climate pact in Copenhagen have brightened but negotiations must speed up to meet a December deadline, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat said on Tuesday.

Yvo de Boer said moves by countries including Japan, China and India to curb greenhouse gases had helped the 190-nation talks in recent weeks despite disappointing progress on financing the fight against climate change by the Group of 20.

“The outlook is brightening,” De Boer said in a telephone interview from Manila during a tour of Asian nations. “We are moving in the right direction—nothing wrong with the direction, something left to be desired in terms of the pace.”

“I’m more confident than I’ve been before, I think the Japanese announcement is incredibly encouraging,” De Boer told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.

On Monday Japan’s prime minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama said he favoured a 25% cut in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 below 1990 levels, far deeper than the outgoing government’s 8% target.

Hatoyama said, however, the cuts depended on ambitious goals by other industrialised nations to rein in global warming.

De Boer also praised efforts by China, which has overtaken the United States as top emitter, to slow the rise of its emissions. The UN Climate Panel says global warming will cause more floods, droughts, wildfires, disease and rising seas.

China beacon
“If I look at what China is already doing and what it seems to be exploring in terms of further action I think that is, quite honestly, a beacon for all of us,” he said.

He also said India, the fourth biggest emitter after Russia, was “working hard” to deliver long-term goals of shifting towards renewable energies from fossil fuels set a year ago.

But he said: “I wasn’t particularly encouraged or impressed by the outcome of the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in London,” at the weekend.
It made little progress towards working out how to fund the fight against climate change.

G20 leaders are due to meet in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25. Combating global warming is likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year, ranging from new clean energies such as solar, wind or tidal power and aid to poor nations.

De Boer said a climate summit at UN headquarters on September 22 could help by signalling a broad international commitment to slowing climate change, beyond narrower groups such as the G20 or G8.

On August 14, at the end of the last round of UN negotiations in Bonn, De Boer said the UN talks risked failure unless they accelerated and cut a 200-page draft treaty.

“We really need a streamlined basis for negotiation,” he said. The next round of UN talks will be in Bangkok from September 28 to October 9 with a week in Barcelona in early November before the Copenhagen talks from December 7 to 18.

De Boer said he hoped rich nations would promise deeper cuts in emissions before Copenhagen, adding Japan’s 25% proposal offered reductions in emissions by industrialised nations of a total of between 11% and 15% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Developing nations led by China want rich nations to cut by an average of at least 40% by 2020, the toughest end of a 25% to 40% range outlined by the UN panel to avoid the worst of global warming.—Reuters

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