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No room for climate setbacks

BONN, Apr 11 – Another failure in the quest for a treaty on climate change would cripple trust in the United Nations\’ ability to tackle global warming, the UN\’s climate pointman warned as new talks ground into their final day Sunday.

In an interview with AFP, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the global process hinged on a November 29-December 10 meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

After the disappointment of last December\’s Copenhagen Summit, it was vital for Cancun to yield a "functioning architecture" on big questions, including agreement on how to curb carbon emissions and provide aid for poor countries, said de Boer.

"We reached an agreement in Bali (in 2007) that we would conclude negotiations two years later in Copenhagen, and we didn\’t," de Boer said.

"The finishing line has now been moved to Cancun, and I wouldn\’t be surprised if the final finishing line in terms of a legally binding treaty ends up being moved to South Africa," at the end of 2011.

"Copenhagen was the last get-out-of-jail-free card and we cannot afford another failure in Cancun," de Boer said.

"I think if we see another failure in Cancun, that will cause a serious loss of confidence in the ability of this process to deliver."

Negotiators on Sunday headed into the final day of a three-day meeting in Bonn that aimed at picking up the pieces after Copenhagen.

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Far from being the glittering triumph envisaged in Bali, Indonesia in 2007, the summit ended rancorously and with a deal lashed by many as lamentably threadbare.

The main achievement was the "Copenhagen Accord," brokered by a couple of dozen countries, which set the goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), earmarked some 30 billion dollars in short-term aid and sketched a target of mustering 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.

But the agreement, crafted late at night in order to stave off a fiasco, failed to gain the endorsement of a 194-nation plenary.

Some of the faultlines in Copenhagen opened up again in Bonn, notably over how far — or even whether — to incorporate the controversial accord in a blueprint for negotiation.

The United States led the charge to defend the Copenhagen Accord as a platform for further action. Other countries, though, remained silent, reflecting concern about the document\’s effectiveness, given that its pledges are only voluntary.

Left-led nations in the Caribbean and Latin America attacked the deal as undemocratic and a betrayal of UN principles.

They called for negotiations to resume on the basis of a draft that was put on hold halfway through the Copenhagen meeting, delegates said.

Mamadou Honadia, delegation chief for Burkina Faso, said African countries remained guarded about the intentions of rich countries.

Many suspected a move to ditch the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark UNFCCC climate treaty, after 2012, he told AFP.

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"We are still disappointed. We don\’t know how trust can be rebuilt unless there is a clear step forward by rich countries, in turning the Copenhagen proposals (for aid) into something real."

Underpinning the UN talks is mounting scientific evidence that man-made greenhouse gases — mainly carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels — are trapping solar heat in the atmosphere.

Within decades, changes to Earth\’s weather system could spell misery for many millions, hit by worsening drought, flood, rising sea levels and storms, say experts.

Over the past five years, calls for action have become ever more urgent.

But political progress for dealing with the problem has foundered on defence of national interests, the costs of converting to safer energy and the hugely complex, consensus-driven negotiation process.

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