TIANJIN, China (Reuters) - The United States and EU said on Wednesday that U.N. climate talks were making less progress than hoped due to rifts over rising economies’ emission goals, while China pushed back and put the onus on rich nations.
Negotiators from 177 governments are meeting this week in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, trying to agree on the shape of the successor to the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the key U.N. treaty on fighting global warming, which expires in 2012.
Midway through the talks, however, initial hopes that they can deliver progress on trust-building goals have become snared in procedural skirmishing that boils down to feuding over how far rich and emerging nations should curb their greenhouse gas emissions and how they should check on each other’s efforts.
Negotiators said the contention could damage prospects for negotiations late this year in Cancun, Mexico, which are intended to lay the foundations for a new, legally-binding climate pact.
“There is less agreement than one might have hoped to find at this stage,” said Jonathan Pershing, the United States’ lead U.S. negotiator in Tianjin.
“It’s going to require a lot of work to get to some significant outcome by the end of this week, which then leads us into a significant outcome in Cancun,” he told reporters.
Fraught climate negotiations last year failed to agree on a binding treaty and climaxed in a bitter meeting in Copenhagen, which produced a vague and non-binding accord that later recorded the emissions pledges of participant countries.
Fearing deadlock in efforts to reach a binding pact by late next year, governments have been pushing in Tianjin for broad agreement on less contentious objectives: a fund for climate action, a scheme to protect carbon-absorbing rainforests, and policies to share clean energy technology with poorer nations.
Pershing said he still hoped that the makings of a deal can come together at Cancun, and warned that failure in Mexico could damage the whole U.N. climate negotiations.
Big developing nations — such as China, India and Brazil — should take on firmer emissions reduction obligations as part of a new treaty that would abandon a simple division between rich and developing countries, said Pershing.
The current Kyoto Protocol only commits nearly 40 industrialized nations to meet binding targets.
A European Union official at the Tianjin talks said they had made headway on some issues, but also voiced worry for Cancun.
“We are very concerned with the procedural blockages and we find it simply inexplicable that they keep on popping up on the issues that are of vital importance for the final deal,” Jurgen Lefevere of the European Commission climate action office told reporters. “There is still hope,” he added later.
China is the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter from human activity, with the United States second.
China and India have pledged emissions reduction steps under the Copenhagen accord, but want Kyoto to be extended to lock in commitments by rich countries and to ensure their own emissions are not subject to binding international caps.
China’s greenhouse gas emissions will keep rising for years yet, but its top climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua said it was unfair to press the country on when its emissions would peak while rich nations failed to slash theirs.
He also told reporters at the talks that his government would not budge from demanding the Kyoto Protocol be the basis of any new climate deal. The United States is not a party to the Protocol and would have to come under a separate deal.
“When the world’s emissions peak depends on developed countries leading with dramatic cuts in their emissions, making space for developing countries,” said Xie.
China and other emerging nations will accept international “consultation and analysis” of their emissions, but not anything equal to the standards expected of rich economies, said Xie.
Editing by Sugita Katyal