June 17, 2011 / 12:55 PM / 8 years ago

U.N. climate talks make scant progress to save Kyoto

BONN (Reuters) - Negotiators made scant progress toward salvaging the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol for fighting climate change beyond 2012 at two weeks of talks ending on Friday, delegates said.

Smoke billows from chimneys at an industrial district near Tokyo February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

“When you look at the progress ...it is very uneven,” said Adrian Macey of New Zealand, chairing a session of talks among 180 nations in Bonn about the Kyoto Protocol, which risks dying beyond 2012 due to lack of support.

Developing nations accused rich nations of reneging on promises to extend Kyoto, which now binds almost 40 nations to cut emissions until 2012. Kyoto’s future has become the main focus after a U.N. summit in 2009 failed to agree a new treaty.

“Progress in Bonn has been hampered by parties with the biggest historical responsibility for emissions,” the Alliance of Small Island States said of rich nations that have burned carbon-emitting fossil fuels since the 18th century Industrial Revolution.

The alliance says its members are on the front line of climate change, including more powerful storms, droughts, floods and rising sea levels. Developing nations say that the rich must take the lead and extend Kyoto to unlock action by the poor.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not make cuts in an extended Kyoto and are instead demanding a new global deal with greenhouse gas curbs to be observed by all, including big emerging nations led by China and India.

And Kyoto backers led by the European Union say they are unwilling to go it alone and will extend the pact only if all major emitters sign up for curbs.


Further complicating Kyoto’s fate, the United States never ratified the 1997 U.N. deal, arguing that it unfairly omitted targets by major emerging emitters such as China and India and would cost U.S. jobs. Washington says it will not join.

Advances in Bonn were largely on technical issues, such as working out new ways of sharing clean energy technologies or setting up a green fund to aid developing nations. Little headway was made on broader issues of emissions cuts or cash.

In talks about slowing deforestation, for instance, the text agreed to ask for new ideas by a September 19 deadline. “That’s a step forward,” said Donald Lehr of the Ecosystems Climate Alliance. “But it’s not enough. It’s too slow.”

The talks also postponed decisions on four separate items meant to speed up and expand the clean development mechanism, which allows rich nations to invest in emission-cutting projects such as wind or solar power in poor nations.

As the final sessions were held, the United Nations was scrambling to muster cash to hold a new U.N. session, as hoped by many delegates, before annual talks among environment ministers in Durban, South Africa, in November and December. Many nations have been reluctant to pay.

The meeting had opened with calls for swifter action after the International Energy Agency said that global carbon dioxide emissions rose by 5.9 percent in 2010, to a record level, despite promises of cuts.

“The contrast between what’s happening with emissions and the pace of talks here is alarming,” said Samantha Smith, of the WWF International conservation group.

Still, she said that there were examples of progress around the world, such as programs by Brazil and Indonesia to slow deforestation, backed by donors led by Norway. “The process has produced successes, but not here,” she said.

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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