/ 22 September 2009

UN seeks to spur climate talks

China and the United States will seek to revive stalled negotiations on a new pact to combat global warming at a United Nations summit on Tuesday amid warnings that time is running out.

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, leading the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, will address a one-day summit just two and a half months before 190 nations gather in Copenhagen to work out a deal to slow climate change.

”The clock is ticking,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. He said he hoped that leaders would ”publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen” and give guidance to negotiators to step up the pace.

Talks leading to the December 7 to 18 meeting have not gone well.

Developed and developing countries are at odds over how to distribute emissions curbs, while poorer nations press richer ones to contribute tens or hundreds of billions of dollars a year to help them cope with rising temperatures.

European Commissioner José Manuel Barroso said talks are ”dangerously close to deadlock” and were in danger of an ”acrimonious collapse” without faster progress.

Obama and Hu, who are scheduled to meet one-on-one after the summit, could help break the climate impasse.

The Chinese leader, whose country is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other climate-warming gases, is expected to lay out new proposals that may include a ”carbon intensity” target — a pledge to cut the amount of greenhouse gasses produced for each dollar of national income.

China leads
”This suite of policies will take China to be the world leader on addressing climate change,” said Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, on Monday, anticipating the announcement.

An aggressive move by China to curb its emissions — even if short of an absolute cap — could blunt criticism by leaders in Washington, many of whom are reluctant to commit to US emission cuts without evidence that Beijing is acting.

Obama, whose legislative initiatives to reduce US emissions have been overshadowed by his push for healthcare reform, will try to fulfill his promise of showing leadership toward getting a global deal, even as chances that the US Senate will pass a climate bill by December dim.

Martin Kaiser, climate policy director for environmental group Greenpeace International, said the president had allowed ”vested interests” to undermine his promises so far.

”This is Obama’s opportunity to be a global leader and signal to the rest of the world that the US will take on its fair share of the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years,” Kaiser said in a statement.

Tuesday’s meeting, called by Ban, will gather about 100 heads of state and government. Activists hope momentum from the talks will spur negotiators, who meet next week in Bangkok.

Coinciding with the summit, about 500 businesses called for an amibitious deal to combat warming, saying failure to set tough goals in Copenhagen would erode confidence and cut investment in low-carbon technology.

”Developed countries need to take on immediate and deep emission reduction commitments that are much higher than the global average,” it said. They included German insurer Allianz, oil group Royal Dutch Shell and Britain’s top retailer Tesco.

Small island states, fearing rising sea levels, called on world leaders to set tougher goals to limit global warming. ”We see climate change as … a threat to our survival,” Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada, told reporters on Monday.

The European Union, which welcomed Obama’s more aggressive stance on climate policy compared to his predecessor George Bush, has become increasingly frustrated with the US administration’s lack of progress.

And Europe wants rich countries among the Group of 20 to find some $10-billion annually for the developing world as an advance payment toward reaching a climate deal this year.

G20 leaders are expected to discuss the issue in Pittsburgh later this week, but, barring a breakthrough in the UN summit, little progress is expected. — Reuters