U.N. climate talks risk backsliding on Cancun outcome

BANGKOK Wed Apr 6, 2011 9:57am EDT

Activists of Environment Greenpeace perform next to a giant life ring, during talks on climate change, in Cancun beach December 10, 2010. Arguments over the agenda that have stalled U.N. climate talks in Bangkok this week show that some nations are trying to row back from hard-won agreements reached last December in Cancun, Russia said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Activists of Environment Greenpeace perform next to a giant life ring, during talks on climate change, in Cancun beach December 10, 2010. Arguments over the agenda that have stalled U.N. climate talks in Bangkok this week show that some nations are trying to row back from hard-won agreements reached last December in Cancun, Russia said on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Henry Romero

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Arguments over the agenda that have stalled U.N. climate talks in Bangkok this week show that some nations are trying to row back from hard-won agreements reached last December, Russia said on Wednesday.

The December deal in Cancun included a Green Climate Fund to manage $100 billion a year in aid to poor nations by 2020 and to limit a rise in average world temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

It also won consensus on measures to protect tropical forests and a framework to help poorer nations adapt to rising seas and greater weather extremes, in a series of agreements viewed as saving the fraught U.N. climate negotiations from collapse.

But the April 3-8 talks in Bangkok, the first major climate meeting since Cancun and meant to agree on a plan to build on the December agreements, have stalled because of a dispute over an agenda presented by the 131-member G77 grouping plus China.

Rich nations say that agenda doesn't reflect all the agreements in Cancun and pushes for the resolution of key outstanding issues by the end of the year instead of trying to work through things step-by-step as agreed in Cancun.

"The hopes and the expectations were that after Cancun we will start more focused work on building up on the outcome of Cancun," said Oleg Shamanov, head of the Russian delegation.

He said the idea was to come up with the specific elements of what would become the formal decisions at major climate talks in the South African city of Durban at year's end.

"Instead we are now trapped and locked into purely procedural discussions about the agenda that could have been avoided.

"That highly disappoints me that we are pulling back from the dynamics that we achieved in Cancun," he told Reuters in an interview.

FIREWALL

Cancun left unresolved tougher issues such as the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s main weapon in the fight against climate change. Poor nations want Kyoto's fate resolved by Durban.

Kyoto's 2008-12 first phase binds nearly 40 rich nations to emissions targets. But no successor pact that would expand or replace Kyoto from 2013 is in sight and rich and poor nations are deeply divided on the shape of any new pact.

Poorer nations want Kyoto to remain as the main agreement. Under the pact, developing nations are obliged to take voluntary steps to curb emissions.

"My assessment is that some parties that are a bit scared of the outcomes of Cancun, that they are too far reaching and that they are trying to take a precautionary position," said Shamanov, adding that Russia was keen to see progress in the talks.

"I would like to see the work focused on specific elements where we have more or less clear mandates emanating from Cancun. We have to go step by step."

He said poorer nations needed to understand it was impossible to renegotiate or revise the Cancun Agreements "through the backdoor of procedural disputes on the agenda."

"I think that is what it is about. It's all about a firewall between the actions of developed countries, commitments of the developed countries and the possible actions by developing countries."

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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