UN climate talks start in Bangkok

September 28, 2009 12:00 am

, BANGKOK, Sept 28 – UN negotiations for a global climate treaty resumed in Bangkok Monday amid bleak warnings that failure to break a deadlock ahead of a showdown in Copenhagen would threaten future generations.

The talks involving 192 countries are the latest session in nearly two years of haggling that have fallen far short of an agreement to tackle climate change beyond 2010, when the current Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases expires.

The task in Bangkok is to thrash out a draft text for December’s Copenhagen talks on the post-Kyoto treaty, but delegates are wrangling over the two key issues — cutting carbon emissions and meeting the associated costs.

"Our children and grandchildren will never forgive us unless action is taken. Time is running out, we have two months before Copenhagen," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said at the opening of the talks.

"Much needs to be done and much needs to be resolved. Let us use the two weeks in Bangkok to the full to ensure the future," he told around 2,500 delegates and representatives from business and environmental groups.

The Bangkok talks, part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), run to October 9 and are the next to last negotiations before Copenhagen’s deadline meeting.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said on the eve of the meetings in the Thai capital that there was intense pressure on the participants to agree on a text.

"We’re arriving here in Bangkok with about, I think, a 280-page negotiating text which is basically impossible to work with," de Boer told AFP.

"We’ve got 16 days of negotiating time left before Copenhagen so things are getting tight and we need to get to a result."

Greenpeace spokeswoman Tove Ryding said the delegates were "drowning in text". "In three months they have cut out just 18 pages. We need 50 pages out by Monday," she said.

The talks follow last week’s UN climate summit in New York and a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, which failed to break the deadlock on either of the two biggest issues.

The final talks before Copenhagen are in Barcelona from November 2-6.

Experts warn that global temperatures must rise no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 over pre-industrial times, a target embraced by the leaders of the G8 nations in July.

Scientists also say emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases should peak just six years from now.

Without drastic action, they fear drought, floods and rising sea levels could grip the world by the end of the century, causing famine, homelessness and strife.

On emissions, developed economies have acknowledged a historical responsibility for global warming. Most have put numbers on the table for slashing their carbon pollution by 2020 and by 2050.

But they say that developing nations — especially China, India and Brazil and other major emitters of tomorrow — should also pledge to curb output of greenhouse gases.

Poor and emerging economies refuse to take on their own hard targets but call for rich nations to make higher cuts than they have set themselves for 2020.

President Hu Jintao did vow at the UN last week to make China’s economy less carbon intensive — essentially promising to use fossil fuels more efficiently — by a "notable margin" before 2020. But he set no figures.

China has overtaken the United States as top carbon polluter, according to several scientific assessments. Together, the two nations account for 40 percent of greenhouse gases.

Campaigners pointed to devastating floods in the Philippines that have killed 100 people and displaced half a million others as evidence for the need for an urgent agreement.

They are looking to the United States to take the lead in pushing for a pact, although it has so far offered much lower targets for emissions cuts by 2020 than other developed economies.

"Either the US lifts its game, or the next two weeks in Bangkok could go down as just a holding pattern before a fatal nosedive in Copenhagen", said Antonio Hill, senior climate policy adviser at Oxfam International.


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