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New climate talks set for 2010 as treaty remains out of reach

Although some 175 nations have agreed on a plan to salvage climate talks after the Copenhagen summit, the UN's top climate official predicted a full new treaty was out of reach for 2010. Delegates agreed to hold two extra meetings later in the year.


REUTERS - About 175 nations agreed a plan on Sunday to salvage climate talks after the Copenhagen summit but the U.N.’s top climate official predicted a full new treaty was out of reach for 2010.

Delegates at the April 9-11 talks, marred by late-night wrangling between rich and poor nations on how to slow global warming, agreed to hold two extra meetings in the second half of 2010 after the December summit fell short of a binding deal.

The extra sessions, of at least a week long each, and a linked plan to prepare new draft U.N. climate texts would help pave the way to the next annual meeting of environment ministers in Cancun, Mexico, Nov. 29-Dec. 10.

“We had an outcome that was pretty positive. That is a good augury for what comes next,” said Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation. He said it was “a pain in the neck” that it took so long but noted U.N. climate talks were often sluggish.

“We have made substantial progress in the resuscitation of a positive spirit,” said Dessima Williams of Grenada, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States. The disputes showed that “multilateralism is very slow and complicated”.

Earlier, the U.N.’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, said governments should focus on practical steps in 2010, such as aid to poor nations to cope with the impacts of climate change, protection of tropical forests or new clean technologies.

“I don’t think Cancun will provide the final outcome,” de Boer told Reuters on the sidelines of the talks, the first since Copenhagen and intended to rebuild trust after the summit.

Many more meetings

“I think that Cancun can agree an operational architecture but turning that into a treaty, if that is the decision, will take more time beyond Mexico,” he said, predicting “many more rounds” of talks to reach an ultimate solution.

Elliot Diringer, of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, said that a climate treaty should remain the ultimate objective but might be years off. “We shouldn’t fool ourselves about getting there this year or next,” he said.

Delegates asked the chair of the talks, Margaret
Mukahanana-Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, to come up with a draft text by May 17 on ways to combat global warming to help push ahead with negotiations at a meeting scheduled for Bonn May 31-June 11. Two extra meetings are also planned but no venues have been fixed.

All countries could send her input over the next two weeks.

At the heart of the dispute between rich and poor was the role of the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, worked out at the summit and backed by about 120 nations led by the United States.

Mukahanana-Sangarwe said she reckoned she could draw on elements of the Accord in her work, even though it was not adopted by all in Copenhagen and faces bitter opposition from nations such as Sudan, Bolivia and Saudi Arabia.

The Accord aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) from pre-industrial times. But it does not spell out how and some poor nations say it is too weak to avert dangerous impacts.

The Accord also pledges $30 billion from 2010-2012 to help developing nations cope with climate change, such as floods, droughts, mudslides and rising seas. Aid is meant to rise to $100 billion a year from 2020.

But almost all delegates say that the current pledges from developed nations for cutting greenhouse gases by 2020 will mean a temperature rise of more than 3 Celsius.

“We don’t have a debate happening (about tougher goals) and that’s not acceptable,” said Kathrin Gutmann of the WWF conservation group.

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