UN climate chief optimistic over Copenhagen talks

The United Nations’s top climate negotiator voiced optimism on Monday that a deal can be salvaged next month at world talks on global warming, but said United States President Barack Obama must offer a target and financing.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer has already said it would be impossible to conclude a comprehensive climate treaty during the talks opening in Copenhagen on December 7.

However, ahead of a meeting with EU ministers in Brussels, he told Agence France-Presse that “I think we will have a very specific agreement.”

This was likely to include “a list of rich country targets [and] clarity on what major developing countries like India and China are willing to do”, he said.

De Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also said he expected “we will have clarity on finances”, with a list of pledged contributions.

For these goals to be meaningful and attainable, however, major greenhouse gas emitter the US would have to bring something concrete to the table.

De Boer, though, expressed confidence, saying: “My sense is Obama will be in a position to come to Copenhagen with a target and a financial contribution.”

Last week US Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the senate would not enact fresh legislation on tackling climate change until next year.

“We are going to try to do that some time in the spring,” Reid said, confirming that the US Congress will not adopt any such measures or legislation to combat climate change before the talks in Denmark, which are due to wrap up on December 18.

“They are not going to finalise the legislation before Copenhagen, but they don’t need to,” said the upbeat De Boer.

“Not a single country that signed the Kyoto accord had legislation in place, they all developed the legislation afterwards and then ratified the treaty,” he said of the existing protocol, ratified by 184 countries and which expires in 2012.

De Boer’s optimism was boosted by “the pledges many countries are making”, citing Brazil, South Korea, Russia and, most recently, Japan for having made “very encouraging” announcements.

Last month the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea pledged to “work closely together” to make the crucial global climate talks a success.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who took power in September, has pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s number two economy by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Turning his attention to Europe, De Boer said he hopes the EU will clarify its position on funding ahead of the Copenhagen talks.

“We need to have a clear figure from Europe on the table,” he stressed.

At a summit last month the 27 EU heads of state and government agreed on a negotiating position for Copenhagen, but failed to come up with a figure for aid to the developing world to tackle climate change and deal with its consequences.

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, called the extraordinary meeting with his European counterparts to discuss the bloc’s strategy in the lead-up to the talks.

As he arrived, he said the issue should not be fudged.

“We expect the Copenhagen meeting to be a milestone. Some parties prefer now to talk about two steps, we prefer to see the Copenhagen meeting as the step,” he insisted.

“We are aiming on a full agreement covering all content.”—AFP

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