UN Climate Talks Under Pressure to Drop 2020 Goals
Author: Emma Graham-Harrison
"It's prejudging what the outcome should be," chief US negotiator Harlan Watson said of a draft text suggesting that developed nations should aim to axe emissions of heat-trapping gases by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The United Nations wants the Dec. 3-14 talks in Bali, gathering more than 10,000 participants, to agree to launch negotiations on a new global climate treaty to be adopted at a UN meeting in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.
"We don't want to start out with numbers," Watson told a news conference of the hunt for a new pact to fight rising temperatures that could bring more floods, droughts, melt Himalayan glaciers and raise sea levels.
A new pact would widen the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which binds 36 industrial nations to cut emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by 5 percent below 1990 by 2008-12. The United States has rejected Kyoto and developing nations in the pact, such as China and India, have no 2008-12 targets.
Delegates said Washington and Tokyo argued strongly in meetings on Monday against mention of a range for long-term emissions cuts in a draft text, which lays out the guidelines for any future negotiations.
The draft also refers to scientific evidence that world emissions will have to be cut by at least 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050 to avert the worst impacts of global warming. Poor nations want the rich to commit to the deepest cuts.
"The numbers are still in the text. There has been a lot of pressure to take them out," one delegate with intimate knowledge of the draft negotiations said. He corrected a statement earlier in the day that they had been cut out.
A total of 176 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol agreed in August to the 25-40 percent goal as a non-binding guide for developed nations.
"This is unacceptable," Hans Verolme of the WWF environmental group said of efforts to cut out goals.
He noted that the UN Climate Panel -- on whose work the 25-40 percent range was based -- collected the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday in Oslo.
"Our opinion about Kyoto has not changed," Watson said. President George W. Bush opposes Kyoto, saying it would damage the US economy and wrongly excludes 2008-2012 goals for developing nations, such as China, India and Brazil.
Bush says the United States will join a new global pact.
And in Oslo, former US Vice President Al Gore -- defeated by Bush for the presidency in the narrow 2000 election -- said it was time to stop waging war on the earth and make peace with the planet. He also said the 2008 election campaign was not focusing enough on climate.
US Senator John Kerry arrived in Bali on Monday, saying an administration run by the Democrats would mean the difference between night and day on policies to fight global warming.
Kerry said the Democrats would, unlike Bush, back mandatory emissions targets and pass a bill to create a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions.
On the margins of the main talks, about 40 deputy finance ministers held unprecedented talks about ways to ensure that efforts to slow climate change do not derail the world economy.
"Having the finance ministers meeting ... itself is a breakthrough," Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said. The meeting will prepare for talks by about 20 finance ministers in Bali on Tuesday.
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(With extra reporting by Gde Anugrah Arka in Bali, Rob Taylor in Canberra; writing by Alister Doyle; editing by David Fogarty and Jeremy Laurence)