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Environment

Climate talks risk failure unless they accelerate: U.N.

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - U.N. talks on a new climate treaty due to be agreed in December risk failure unless negotiations accelerate, a senior U.N. official said on Friday after a sluggish week-long session involving 180 countries.

Many nations also bemoaned scant progress at the Aug 10-14 talks that failed to break deadlocks on issues such as sharing out curbs on greenhouse gases among rich and poor, and raising funds to help developing nations cope with global warming.

“If we continue at this rate we’re not going to make it,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference after the meeting in Bonn.

He said “selective progress” has been made toward trimming a huge 200-page draft treaty text in Bonn, one of a series of talks meant to end with a U.N. deal in Copenhagen in December.

He warned participants that just 15 days of negotiations remain before Copenhagen -- at meetings in Bangkok in September-October and Barcelona in November.

“It is clear that there is quite a significant uphill battle if we are going to get there,” said Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation. But he said there were some signs of movement. “You absolutely can get there,” he said.

Developing nations accused the rich of failing to take the lead in setting deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and of trying to get the poor to shoulder more of the burden of emission curbs without providing aid and technology.

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“We still have the same problems that have been hindering us,” China’s climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters. He said that China was keen to see its emissions peak but that fighting poverty had to remain an overriding priority.

China and India want the rich to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst of climate change such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

ISLAND STATES WANT MORE

Small island states and least developed nations, 80 in all, teamed up to call for deeper cuts, of at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

“Copenhagen is the last chance to avoid a global human tragedy,” said Dessima Williams of Grenada, who chairs the alliance of small island states. Many are at risk from stronger cyclones and rising seas.

She said cuts promised by industrialized nations so far totaled just 10 to 16 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and would mean a world temperature rise of 3 Celsius. “Such a path would be catastrophic for all countries,” she said.

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The European Union, which has offered some of the deepest cuts, also criticized average offers by developed nations.

“They are gravely insufficient,” said Anders Turesson, the chief negotiator of Sweden which holds the EU presidency. He also said that developing nations had to show “more engagement.”

Major emitters agreed at a summit in Italy last month to try to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

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Many delegates said that a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York and a meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 in Pittsburgh, both in September, could help.

“Delegates are kept back by political gridlock. The political leaders must now unblock the process,” said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF environmental group’s global climate initiative.

Greenpeace also criticized a lack of promised leadership at the talks by nations like the United States, Germany and France.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

Editing by Tim Pearce

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