Climate Talks Could Pick Up From Failed Summit

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Climate change negotiators convening this weekend are hoping to renew momentum on a new global warming treaty after setbacks at the Copenhagen summit four months ago — but the talks could easily turn into a round of recriminations.

Delegates from 175 countries begin a three-day meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Friday with an open session meant to be a stocktaking. But it could turn bitter over blame for the failure to deliver a firm agreement in the Danish capital on limiting manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, the cause of the Earth's rising average temperatures.

The biggest environmental summit in history, attended by 120 world leaders, was rescued from total collapse in its final hours with a frantic round of diplomacy led by President Barack Obama and a few dozen other heads of government.

The main task this weekend is to set a schedule of talks for the rest of the year leading up to another major conference in Cancun, Mexico, starting Nov. 29.

"If they are serious, they have to put together a work plan that will deliver," said Kaisa Kosonen, a climate policy adviser for Greenpeace. "It's not the number of meetings, but the mandate of those meetings, what they are trying to achieve."

An unstated task of the conference is to shake off the letdown from Copenhagen.

"It is important to rebuild confidence in the process," and to sound out countries on how they want to proceed, said Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official who oversees the talks.

The Copenhagen summit produced a vague three-page document pledging swift financial aid to poor countries most vulnerable to the effects of global warming and aiming to limit temperature increases this century to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above the average before the industrial age some 200 years ago.

But the accord failed to set binding targets for reducing carbon emissions by industrial countries. Nor did it require developing countries to limit the growth of their emissions, where most of the increase will occur over the next decades.

Some 75 countries, which together emit 80 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, submitted voluntary emissions goals, but together they fell far short of reductions needed to meet the 2 degree target.

Scientists say anything over that increase in temperature boosts the risk of a rise in sea levels flooding coastal areas, water shortages in arid zones leading to mass migrations and disruptive changes in agriculture.

The path forward is fraught with discord.

The United States, historically the world's largest polluter and still the biggest carbon emitter per capita, wants to veer away from the course of the negotiations and take the Copenhagen Accord as the starting point for further talks.

But many countries were angered that they were locked out of the backstage negotiations that produced the accord, and want to resume the laborious treaty-drafting process that has been under way for more than two years in cumbersome committees. While drafts have been produced, they have left unresolved the core issue of how to share responsibility for reining in the ever-climbing emissions of harmful emissions.

In a conference call with reporters this week, de Boer said a way must be found to marry the transparency of the U.N. talks with greater efficiency.

He said delegates also must begin looking at all the elements of a climate package together: controlling carbon emissions, helping countries adapt to climate impacts already occurring, transferring clean technologies to developing countries and halting deforestation.

"You can only continue to discuss them in isolation for so long," he said.

Meanwhile, the chatter in the corridor is likely to focus on whom U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will choose to succeed de Boer, who has been the public face of the climate talks for nearly three years. The veteran Dutch civil servant announced he will retire July 1 to become a sustainability consultant for KPMG.

Ban has said he will consult with an 11-country group that is meeting on the sidelines of the Bonn conference.

Top contenders are India's former environment secretary Vijai Sharma, South Africa's former Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk and Costa Rica's Christiana Figueres, who currently is an adviser to a Spanish energy company. Barbados, Indonesia, Ecuador and Pakistan also have nominated candidates.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.



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