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EU Says UN Global Warming Talks May Run Out of Time for Deal

December 10, 2011

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Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union said envoys from 190 nations at global warming talks are running out of time to reach an agreement after a United Nations-sponsored meeting ran a day past its scheduled finish.

The UN released a new draft text today outlining conclusions for the meeting this morning in Durban, South Africa, after delegates met through the night about how to break a deadlock blocking an agreement. That document was published at least three hours after an agreed deadline and failed to include amendments the EU requested, said Marcin Korolec, environment minister of Poland, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

“There’s a lack of leadership that is dangerous for these difficult talks,” Korolec said in an interview in Durban. “We’re ready to stay here as long as needed, even until tomorrow, but ministers from other countries may not be.”

The delay raises the risk the talks collapse without an agreement after two weeks of discussion. The meeting was due to end yesterday, and ministers are beginning to pack their bags for flights home.

“We are literally working against the clock,” U.K. Secretary of State for Environment and Climate Change Chris Huhne said in Durban. “We will go on as long as it takes, but there is a risk that a number of other delegations will have to peel away.”

Contradictions

Delegates gathering about 6:30 p.m. local time for the first formal meeting of the day made contradictory statements about the outcome. Brazil’s lead negotiator, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo told reporters he was “confident” an agreement will be reached today because “everything is there.”

“Everything is not there,” Malian envoy Seyni Nafo, who speaks for the African group of nations, said in an interview. “We can’t conclude on a treaty or framework where we know that the emissions are pledges are so low, and the means of support for developing countries are so low that it can’t deliver. One single legally binding treaty will not solve the issue, will not raise the ambition.”

Figueiredo said countries are converging on agreeing that a new “protocol or another legal instrument” will be negotiated by 2015, with implementation starting before 2020.

South African Text

Last night, delegates worked on a compromise text by South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is chairing the talks, that would bring China and India into a new treaty cutting pollution. It would enable countries to extend the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gases and establish a Green Climate Fund that would help distribute as much as $100 billion a year in climate aid.

This morning, the UN released a 56-page document with 19- page annex detailing technical measures on forest protection, finance and measuring pollution that would form part of the agreement. Ministers from nations and negotiating blocks were huddling to consider whether to accept it. It must be approved at a formal meeting that’s still not scheduled.

“We have reached a point where there is no more space for the middle ground,” Bangladeshi envoy Quamrul Chowdhury said in an interview today in Durban. “These talks will end in either a complete failure or a success.”

Legal Instrument

Under the South African proposal, nations would agree by 2015 to adopt “a protocol or another legal instrument applicable to all parties,” replacing an earlier call for a “legal framework” that the EU and island nations said was too weak. The document dropped a reference to a post-2020 deadline for a new treaty to enter into force.

The roadmap is a precondition by the 27-nation EU to extend its mandatory greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto Protocol after current ones expire next year.

“The text looks promising but we need to take the decisions here and now and as early as possible,” said Isaac Valero-Ladron, climate spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive arm. “We’re running out of time.”

A decision on the timeline could open up a wider package detailed in this morning’s 56-page document, including climate aid and the transfer of clean technologies to developing nations. If the draft text is adopted, it would be first time developing nations said they’d agree to mandatory emission targets, putting them on par with industrial nations.

‘Sweet Spot’

“They found a sweet spot on the legal form, that works for China, works for India, works for the U.S., works for the E.U., works for the vulnerable countries,” Tim Gore, climate change policy adviser to the development charity Oxfam, said in an interview. “This is the keystone for the deal.”

Draft text for an agreement to set further targets under the protocol was also published during the night. According to the proposal a second commitment period would expire in 2017, three years before the EU’s internal target. Countries would submit their second set of Kyoto commitments before May 1, 2012.

“Countries have much more convergence,” said Brazil’s lead negotiator, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo in an interview after a gathering that finished about 2:30 a.m. “It was a positive mood, a positive shift, and I’m very hopeful.” He said talks may end early this afternoon.

--With assistance from Kim Chipman and Andres R. Martinez in Durban, South Africa. Editors: Alessandro Vitelli, Reed Landberg

To contact the reporters on this story: Ewa Krukowska in Durban, South Africa at ekrukowska@bloomberg.net; Alex Morales in Durban, South Africa at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net


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