U.N. climate talks on knife edge as Bolivia slams rich

CANCUN, Mexico Thu Dec 9, 2010 4:46pm EST

1 of 21. Activists from the 350.org environmental protection NGO sit on a table partially submerged in water as they pretend to represent countries taking part in the U.N. climate talks during a staged news conference at a beach in Cancun December 9, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva

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CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Talks on a 190-nation deal to fight global warming were on a "knife edge" on Thursday as Bolivia stuck to hardline demands and accused capitalist climate policies of causing genocide.

A deadlock between rich and poor countries on whether to extend the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol, which obliges almost 40 rich nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, overshadows the two-week meeting in Mexico, which is due to end on Friday.

"It's on a knife edge, we could well have a good outcome but we could also have a car crash," said Chris Huhne, Britain's energy and climate change secretary, who is co-leading talks on Kyoto at the meeting in the Caribbean resort of Cancun.

If they solve the dispute over Kyoto, negotiators are aiming to set up a new fund to help developing countries cope with climate change, work out ways to preserve tropical forests and agree a new mechanism to share clean technologies.

One draft suggested a vague wording that simply left the future of Kyoto open. It says that environment ministers call "for the conclusion as soon as possible of ... the negotiations for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol."

Bolivia's left-wing president, Evo Morales, reiterated calls for radical cuts in greenhouse gases by developed nations under Kyoto to protect what he calls "Mother Earth."

He said 300,000 people die annually from droughts, floods, desertification, storms and rising seas caused by greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution. He described the deaths as "genocide" caused by capitalism.

"There are two ways: either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies," Morales said. Compromise, he said, would be to cheat mankind and he suggested a "worldwide referendum" on climate issues from Cancun.

Bolivia's demands include that rich nations cut in half their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2017 and go beyond those even of the poorest African nations and small island states that are among the most vulnerable to a changing climate.

Some diplomats fear that Bolivia's position could derail the entire conference, where any deals require unanimity.


Ambitions for Cancun are already modest after a U.N. summit in Copenhagen last year failed to agree a binding deal, partly because of opposition from a handful of nations including Bolivia and Sudan.

Japan's Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto reiterated that Tokyo will not commit to a new period of Kyoto.

"Japan will not associate itself with setting a second commitment period," he said in a speech. Tokyo wants a new U.N. deal that binds Kyoto countries and all big polluters including the United States, China and India to limit their emissions.

The developing nations say Kyoto members, most responsible for emitting greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution, must show the way and unilaterally agree to extend Kyoto as a sign of goodwill to unlock action by developing countries.

Kyoto is the first legally binding U.N. pact meant to encourage trillion-dollar shifts in the world economy away from fossil fuels toward cleaner energies such as wind and solar power by placing a penalty on greenhouse gas emissions.

"Time is very, very limited now," said European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. "I think that (given) what is at stake - that is, the future of the process -- we must deliver something."

Separately, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi urged negotiators to extend new U.N. credits to help fossil fuel producers capture and bury greenhouse gases.

And he said the outcome should not penalize oil. "We expect the outcome to discourage any protectionist trade policies that are a bias against ... petroleum products," he told the plenary session of the global talks.

(Writing by Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn; editing by Kieran Murray and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (10)
tangogo68 wrote:
Does anyone seriously think that these diplomats and politicians have any other collective goal than deferring-delaying-deleting-destroying any move towards actual progress in averting the catastrophe that will envelop the coming generations ?

Dec 08, 2010 7:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ROWnine wrote:
Envoirnmental controls in these “poor” countries is a win win proposition. The resources being harvested SHOULD help keep the toxins out of their air and water and the replacement of renewable resources and abatement residual of mine damage will create jobs in thier economies that support other bussiness growth. The increased product cost keeps the preditory nature of consumers from jumping from one poor country to the next and if these laws are international maybe permits can be withheld to enforce the clean up and complience process to benefit all of us. The cost to clean up of the air, water and earth should not be the burden of governments but instead the consumer and since the international entities hide behind whatever nation states laws make enforcement the least likely it may be fairer to go after the countries that make nonresponsability more likely then the countries who have good laws but enforcement may be impossible due to trade agreements!

Dec 08, 2010 9:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Panther695823 wrote:
Does anyone think the reason the earth is heating up is because the sun is getting hotter? I think all this climate talk is just a way for the rich to get richer and the poor, well who cares about the poor right?

Dec 08, 2010 10:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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A tourist takes a plunge as she swims at Ngapali Beach, a popular tourist site, in the Thandwe township of the Rakhine state, October 6, 2013. Picture taken October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3FOI0

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