The Heat Is Online

EU Threatens To Boycott US-led Climate Talks

US, EU deadlocked at climate talks

Nations demand Washington accept Bali document on emissions cuts


The Associated Press, Dec. 13, 2007


BALI, Indonesia - European nations will boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington accepts a range of numbers for negotiating deep reductions of global-warming emissions, Germany's environment minister said Thursday.


"No result in Bali means no Major Economies Meeting," said Sigmar Gabriel, a top EU environment official, referring to a series of separate climate talks initiated by President Bush in September.


The U.S. invited 16 other "major economies" to discuss a possible program of nationally determined, voluntary cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to the binding targets favored by the EU and others now meeting in Bali.


Washington has refused to accept language in a draft document suggesting that industrialized nations consider cutting emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 during upcoming negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.


The European Union and other governments say the figures reflect the measures scientists say are necessary to rein in global warming. But the U.S. and some others argue the inclusion of specific targets will limit the scope of future talks.


Im very concerned about the pace of things, said U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer, as a two-week U.N. climate conference entered its final stretch. If we dont get wording on the future, then the whole house of cards falls to pieces.


While it continues to reject inclusion of the numbers, the United States delegation hopes to reach an agreement that includes all parties and is both environmentally effective and economically sustainable.


I think those that suggest that we magically find an agreement on a metric when we are just starting ... that in itself is a blocking effort, said Jim Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. We need to free up this conversation so we can have the deliberation to find as much consensus and collective engagement.


The conference, which has drawn delegates from 190 nations to Bali island, is aimed at launching negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The meeting is scheduled to wrap up Friday.


Sticking points


Other sticking points include demands from developing countries that they be given assurances of financial assistance and access to expensive technology to help them transition to cleaner economies.

At 12 noon tomorrow, time will be up, said de Boer. Were in an all or nothing situation.


De Boer said he thought a revised draft, which changed the language on emissions cuts, would still include the U.S. among countries that would consider more ambitious targets. But he added language in the draft, which was obtained by The Associated Press, is unclear.


The way I read the particular paragraph ... is that it addresses all industrialized countries, he said. My assessment is that it is not clearly crafted. We will have to wait and see where this goes.


The United States, the worlds largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the only major industrial country to have rejected Kyoto, has been on the defensive since the conference kicked off on Dec. 3.


Pressure has come even from a one-time ally on climate, Australia, whose new prime minister urged Washington to embrace binding targets, and from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who won this years Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change. He will address delegates in Bali later Thursday.


But U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, the head of the American delegation, told reporters that the conference was simply the start of negotiations, not the end.


We dont have to resolve all these issues ... here in Bali, she said.


Environmentalists take aim at Washington


Environmentalists have accused Washington of standing in the way of a meaningful deal  and not just on the inclusion of emissions targets.


We know that there is a wrecking crew in Bali led by the U.S. administration and its minions, said Jennifer Morgan, spokeswoman for environmental groups on Bali. They are working hard to pull out the bits of text that matter to developing countries on finance and technology.


Delegates and observers said the tenor of the talks was pointing toward a least-common-denominator outcome: a vague plan to negotiate by 2009 a new deal on emissions cutbacks, replacing Kyoto Protocol.


Everyone wants the United States in so badly that they will be willing to accept some level of ambiguity in the negotiations, said Greenpeace energy expert John Coequyt. Our worry is that we will end up with a deal that is unacceptable from an environmental perspective.


The U.Ns network of climate scientists, which shared the Nobel with Gore, released four major reports in 2007, saying man-made global warming was incontrovertible and nations must sharply reduce emissions of heat-trapping emissions from industry, transport and agriculture.


They warned that failure to act could have potentially catastrophic implications, including rising sea-levels, worsening floods and droughts, and the extinction of a third of the worlds plant and animal species.


Australia breaks ranks with U.S.


The Kyoto Protocol requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a relatively modest average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.


President Bush has argued that the pact would harm the U.S. economy and cutbacks should have been imposed on poorer but fast-developing nations such as China and India. The Bush administration instead promotes a voluntary approach to reducing emissions.


The U.S. delegation heard entreaties from many quarters here to change its position.


In the next round, we expect all developed countries to embrace a further set of binding emissions targets, said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who ratified Kyoto last week soon after being elected, leaving the U.S. alone as the only major industrial nation that repudiates that pact.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved