U.N. stalemate risks unraveling Durban climate deal: EU

BONN Tue May 22, 2012 10:28am EDT

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BONN May 22 (Reuters Point Carbon) - A row over planning how to bind all emitters under a global climate pact from 2020 at U.N. climate talks in Germany is blocking negotiations to deepen nearer term emission cuts and raise cash to help poor countries cope with a warming planet, the EU said Tuesday.

Delegates have failed to start work on a new Durban Platform negotiation track after four days of talks in Bonn spent arguing over an agenda to organize work this year and appoint a chair to steer the process.

With two negotiating days remaining at the fortnight-long session, the EU and other richer nations say the procedural wrangling risks backtracking on what over 190 nations agreed last year and could leave too little time for officials to map out a deal for politicians to adopt at a year-end summit in Doha, Qatar.

"There is a risk of unraveling of what was agreed in the Durban package," the EU's Pete Betts told negotiators, referring to the deal struck at last year's annual climate conference in South Africa.

"We need to stop fighting each other and start fighting climate change instead."

LEGAL FEARS

The EU and other richer states want work on pre-2020 emission cuts to start in the new Durban platform, which aims reach a deal by 2015 to bind all major emitters by 2020.

But developing countries fear this will undermine older and ongoing U.N. agreements that put more responsibility on industrialized nations to keep emissions below levels safe enough to restrain rising temperatures that threaten to displace millions of the world's poorest people.

"Deliberately pigeon-holing ambition in a single area will pull the plug on the Kyoto Protocol, said Naderev Sano of the Philippines, referring to the 1997 pact that places legally-binding emission reductions on richer states.

This view was echoed by China, the world's biggest emitter but not bound to cut emissions before 2020, which said immediately focusing on emission cuts under the Durban Platform risked allowing rich nations to escape legally-binding cuts until 2020.

The EU and some smaller nations covering around 15 percent of global emissions have pledged to continue to be bound by Kyoto after its current emission goal expires this year but Japan, Russia and Canada have refused and the U.S. has never had a Kyoto target.

All parties agreed in 2007 to work towards a legally binding climate deal that placed more responsibility for emission reductions on industrialized states but subsequent negotiations failed to secure more than voluntary pledges until last year's agreement in Durban.

LASTING EFFECT

Green groups said the agenda row had held up other negotiating tracks in Bonn and warned that agreeing a Durban Platform work plan would have lasting consequences on future negotiations.

"It's not just about process, countries know it's a very critical issue which is going to shape the structure of these talks to 2015 and determine a 2020 legal climate regime," said Tim Gore of development charity Oxfam.

Seyni Nafo, a spokesman for the African Group of 54 countries, said developing nations were testing the will of industrialized states to make firmer emission and cash commitments but was optimistic that the Durban Platform agenda could be agreed by the end of the week.

"A number of parties are questioning the seriousness of partners- U.S., Japan, Canada and others- in really increasing their ambition. You see that being reflected in the agenda debate," he said.

The Bonn talks run until May 25 and aim to make progress on how long the next Kyoto Protocol commitment period will run and how rich countries can raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer nations tackle climate change and limit their greenhouse gas output.

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