OSLO (Reuters) - The United Nations took a step toward a new climate treaty on Friday by publishing the first draft negotiating texts to help bridge a “great gulf” between options for rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Two documents totaling 68 pages also laid out choices on controversial issues such as nuclear power, emissions trading, forests, shipping or aviation in a new U.N. global warming pact due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.
“This is intended to move the negotiating process forward,” John Ashe, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.N. who compiled the texts as head of a U.N. group looking at future cuts in emissions by rich nations, told Reuters by telephone.
“There is a great gulf between the various numbers presented by parties,” he said. “It won’t be possible to please everyone. Everyone will be unhappy with the outcome in Copenhagen, but my hope is that what comes out will be good for the planet.”
Developing countries, which blame the rich for stoking global warming by burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, are calling for far deeper cuts than planned by recession-hit governments in developed nations.
One of the deepest suggestions is for rich nations to more than halve their emissions below 1990 levels by 2018-2022 to rein in global warming that the U.N. Climate Panel says will cause rising sea levels, heatwaves, floods and droughts.
President Barack Obama, for instance, aims by 2020 to cut U.S. emissions to 1990 levels, about 14 percent below 2007 levels.
The existing Kyoto Protocol, of which the United States is not a member, binds 37 industrialized nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
A separate U.N. text, ranging from 2050 targets for world emissions to possible actions by developing nations led by China and India, will be published on May 18. All texts will discussed at the next U.N. climate change talks in Bonn from June 1-12.
“It’s certainly a big moment for the talks,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat which published the documents (www.unfccc.int), told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about the publications.
“The texts will provide governments with the basis to get down to the real nitty gritty of identifying where they agree, where they disagree and what they can do to turn disagreement into an agreement,” he said.
Friday’s texts outline possible ways of widening a scheme that allows developed nations to claim carbon trading credits from green investments in poor countries, for instance in hydropower or wind farms.
Some countries would like to see such credits expanded to nuclear power plants or to projects to capture and bury heat-trapping carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels in power plants or oil refineries. Others are strongly opposed.
Three options for nuclear power and carbon capture were acceptance, rejection or shelving decisions until 2010 or 2011.
The documents also lay out options on how to account for forestry or land use changes in developed nations — plants soak up carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they decay or are burned.
And the texts include proposals by the European Union to add international shipping or aviation to carbon trading schemes. Fuel burned on planes and ships on international routes are exempt under Kyoto.
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Editing by Myra MacDonald