Negotiators urged to speed up climate pact talks

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Delegates at the start of marathon climate talks in Thailand on Monday were told to speed up “painfully slow” negotiations as they struggle to settle on the outline of a tougher pact to fight global warming.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva speaks during the opening session of the Bangkok Climate Change Talks September 28, 2009. The Bangkok talks, part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), run to October 9 and will aim to draft a long-term cooperative action to fight against global warming. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

The Bangkok talks, which run until October 9, is the last major negotiating round before a gathering in Copenhagen in December that the United Nations has set as a deadline to seal a broad agreement on a pact to expand and replace the Kyoto Protocol.

“Time is not just pressing. It has almost run out,” Yvo de Boer, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told delegates from about 180 countries.

“But in two weeks real progress can be made toward the goals that world leaders have set for the negotiations to break deadlocks and to cooperate toward concrete progress,” he said.

Delegates at the talks are tasked with trying to streamline a draft legal text of a pact that would replace Kyoto. The main text, running to about 180 pages, is filled with blanks, options and alternative wording options.

The U.N.-led negotiations have become bogged down over arguments about rich nations’ targets to cut emissions by 2020, financing for poorer nations to adapt to climate change and to curb their own greenhouse gas emissions and the best way to deliver and manage those funds.

“We’ve talked for long enough, the world expects actions,” Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate change and energy and host of the December 7-18 Copenhagen gathering, told delegates.

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De Boer later told reporters the negotiating process so far had been painfully slow. “We must have a higher level of ambition in terms of emissions cuts by industrialized countries.

“In addition, we need to see more clarity here on how the process is going to make it possible for developing countries to engage,” he said.


The United Nations, many developing nations and green groups have expressed frustration about the lack of progress during several negotiating rounds in the run-up to Copenhagen.

“The problem we have at the moment in these negotiations is that we are drowning in text,” Tove Ryding of Greenpeace told reporters.

“What we need to see is late nights and fights. We need to see them sit there -- that’s what these people do for a living -- they need to smell like sweat and coffee. If they don’t do that, they’re not actually at work.”

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De Boer spoke of progress at last week’s U.N. climate change summit in New York but said a Copenhagen agreement must have five essential elements.

These included enhanced steps to help the most vulnerable nations adapt to climate change impacts, tougher emissions targets for rich nations, which are currently well below the 25-40 percent reductions from 1990 levels by 2020 recommended by the U.N. climate panel, and cash to help poorer countries cut their emissions.

Hedegaard said a picture was beginning to emerge from the puzzle of the climate text, but rapid progress was needed to refine it into a document with clear political choices.

Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation, said final figures on finance would most likely be decided on the last night of the Copenhagen talks.

“Because you can only commit to figures if you know what kind of deal you are going to have and which direction are you going to go,” he said.

De Boer said long-term financing to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and to slow the pace of their emissions growth should be in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

“I think the main worry for us here in Bangkok is that there’s only 70 days left,” said Runge-Metzger, referring to the start of the Copenhagen meeting. “There’s so much work to be done.”

Editing by Alex Richardson