Progress in UN climate talks, tougher issues ahead

United Nations climate talks have made progress at the halfway mark but many of the toughest issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2020, are deadlocked, delegates said on Saturday.

”We have made considerable progress over the course of the first week,” Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Cabinet minister who presides over the December 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen, told delegates trying to work out a new pact to slow climate change.

Delegates said negotiators had advanced on texts such as defining how new green technologies such as wind and solar power can be supplied to developing nations and in promoting use of forests to soak up greenhouse gases.

”We see the contours of a technology mechanism emerging,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs negotiations on new goals for all nations.

But delegates said there were deep splits on issues such as raising funds for poor nations and sharing out the burden of greenhouse gas emissions curbs before a closing summit of more than 110 world leaders on December 17 and 18.

The Pacific Island of Tuvalu, fearing that rising sea levels could wipe it off the map, stuck to its calls for consideration of a radical new treaty that would force far deeper cuts in greenhouse gases than those under consideration.

”The fate of my country rests in your hands,” Ian Fry, leading the Tuvalu delegation, told the meeting.

”I make this as a strong and impassioned plea … I woke this morning and I was crying and that was not easy for a grown man to admit,” he said, his voice choking with emotion.

Tuvalu
Hedegaard said she wanted more consultations until next week on the Tuvalu proposal, which has been opposed even by some developing nations led by China and India. Fry said that Tuvalu’s fears were widely shared by small island states.

The European Union offered €7,3-billion of climate aid over the next three years on Friday.

The United Nations wants to raise $10-billion a year from 2010 to 2012 in quick-start funds to help the poor cope with global warming and move away from fossil fuels. But few other nations have offered quick-start cash.

In the longer term, the UN estimates the fight against global warming is likely to cost $300-billion a year from 2020, largely to help developing nations adapt to impacts such as droughts, floods and heatwaves.

A panel of UN climate experts said in a 2007 scenario that rich nations would have to cut emissions by about 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of global warming.

Offers by rich nations for cutting emissions, mostly from greenhouse gases, so far total about 14% to 18% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Developing nations such as China, the number one emitter ahead of the US, are expected to slow the rise of their emissions without absolute cuts. They say they need to burn more energy to help end poverty.

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