Rich nations plan "great escape" on climate: China

POZNAN, Poland Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:14am EST

Steam rises from a power station behind the Royd Moor Wind Farm in Penistone near Sheffield, northern England, October 19, 2007. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Steam rises from a power station behind the Royd Moor Wind Farm in Penistone near Sheffield, northern England, October 19, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Some rich countries are planning a "great escape" from promises to fight climate change as recession bites and a deadline nears to agree a new treaty, China's climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The only conclusion many people like me are drawing is that some (rich) countries are preparing for the great escape from Copenhagen," Yu said in an interview. His comments underlined concerns that U.N.-led climate global negotiations in Poznan, Poland, are treading water as many delegates and observers question the chance of agreeing a comprehensive treaty as planned in Copenhagen next year.

Developing countries complain that rich states, most to blame for global warming, cannot even agree a range of emissions cuts nor specific funding to help the South to prepare for climate change, as promised under earlier conventions.

Representatives from some 190 countries are meeting in Poland to push talks aimed at clinching agreement on a new climate pact by the end of next year, to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

It was increasingly doubtful that agreement was achievable next December as a timeline narrowed toward that meeting, Yu said. Most agreement had to be reached by June because of U.N. rules demanding a further six months to fine-tune, he added.

A year ago, the world signed up for a two-year push to agree in Copenhagen a comprehensive new climate treaty to run as of 2013 called a second commitment period.

"The closer we get to Copenhagen the more pessimistic I get," Yu said. "The most urgent decision is that the developed, rich countries set targets for the second commitment period."

"A year has passed and we haven't even started to talk about it. There's strong resistance even on a range let alone country-specific targets," he added.

U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said on Tuesday that he did not expect the Poznan talks to agree any specific emissions reduction targets.

FINANCING, TECHNOLOGY

China also wants specific commitments on funding to help developing nations prepare for global warming and clean up their own act, and has suggested annual contributions equaling 1 percent of the national wealth of rich countries.

"It's an idea on the table to emphasize what's needed," Yu said. "The (1992) convention on climate change talks about the need for additional finance. So far we have not seen meaningful movement on this."

"Without meaningful progress on these issues the whole process will get stuck."

Yu would not comment specifically on goals which U.S. President-elect Barack Obama called for during his campaign, to bring U.S. greenhouse gases down to 1990 levels by 2020 and cut them by 80 percent by 2050.

"We look forward to see a new administration more prepared to take action," he said, and called for urgent steps.

"We have this saying in China 'A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with taking the first step'. And I think it's equally true for fighting climate change."

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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