Positive signs seen on new climate pact

CANBERRA (Reuters) - There are positive signs a climate summit in December will forge a broader pact between rich and poorer nations to fight global warming, a top Australian official and an influential Chinese expert said on Wednesday.

The sun rises behind Fiddlers Ferry coal fired power station near Liverpool, northern England, December 15 2008. REUTERS/Phil Noble

But the “wasteful and luxurious” lifestyles of rich nations could yet alienate poorer nations, with developed countries like the United States and Australia needing to curb energy use and first set an example, China climate expert Pan Jiahua said.

Australia’s center-left government Wednesday began sparring with key Green rivals over its plan to slash carbon emissions between 5 and 15 percent by 2020, with the Greens demanding much deeper cuts as the price of support in parliament.

“Like in the United States, there is huge waste of energy here. I think that China must say (at Copenhagen in December) the Australians could do a little bit more,” Pan told a climate forum in Canberra ahead of the government’s planned talks.

“The more you take actions to reduce, the deeper cuts you are willing to do ... the Chinese may be more likely to engage in exchange,” Pan, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are trying to agree by December in Copenhagen on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations’ main weapon in fighting climate change.

A key aim of the post-Kyoto deal is to find a formula that leads to big developing nations such as China and India to sign up to emissions curbs from 2013. China is the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter after the United States. India is ranked fourth.

But recent U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany, broke up with little progress and fears of a widening split between developed and developing nations on a course forward, with poorer countries demanding more support. Kyoto only commits rich nations to emissions curbs up to 2012.

Hopes among developing countries were dashed that the meeting would set a range of emissions reduction targets for industrialized nations as a whole. The Bonn talks are one of a number of rounds of negotiations this year ahead of Copenhagen.

The final round in December, Pan said, would likely see a broad political agreement struck, but with little detail and leaving efforts to fight climate change to move forward in small, incremental steps lasting possibly for years.

“It would be step forward. So now we would see that as a success,” he added.


Australia’s senior climate negotiator Robert Owen-Jones said he was optimistic because the new Obama administration had helped re-energize talks ahead of Copenhagen.

“Is there a sense of urgency? I think there is. There’s a new tone, partly because the United States came back in reinvigorated,” Owen-Jones told the forum alongside Pan.

Australia’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong met on Wednesday with Greens lawmakers, who hold the balance-of-power in Senate, to discuss toughening the government’s carbon emissions trading scheme.

The meeting was clouded by evidence from three government climate scientists to a Senate panel that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s greenhouse emission cut targets would not have any impact, even if they passed parliament later this year.

“Even if every nation on Earth adopts and succeeds in meeting Australian targets, global emissions would still be above a pathway consistent with long-term climate protection,” the three scientists told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Wong, in a conciliatory offering ahead of meeting Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne, said the government was flexible on its longer-term emissions reduction target of 60 percent by 2050 over 2000 levels.

But Milne said there was no point having an emissions trading scheme if it would not prevent “climate catastrophe.”

“The emperor of the Rudd Government’s emissions target clearly has no clothes,” Milne said. “It is very embarrassing for the Rudd Government that Australia’s leading climate scientists are telling them that their targets are weak.”

Editing by David Fogarty