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Bonn climate negotiators drag on with little progress

UN climate talks have resumed in Bonn to prepare for a December summit in Mexico. Officials say a legally-binding agreement will be impossible, but Mexico's negotiator accuses them of lowering expectations.

Protesters at the UN climate talks in Bonn

Environmental activists protested at the UN climate talks in Bonn

UN climate negotiators from 185 nations are in Bonn grappling line-by-line with a 42-page rough draft of a framework agreement for a new climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The current climate talks last until June 11 and are intended as a preparation for the upcoming United Nations climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

Expectations of a big agreement are not high after the failure of the Copenhagen summit six months ago.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer

Outgoing UN climate chief Yvo de Boer doubts agreement will be reached

Yvo de Boer, chief of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), admits that any treaty is unlikely to be completed before the end of 2011. De Boer tendered his resignation after last December's Copenhagen climate change talks, which ended in widespread disappointment and frustration with only vague promises to cut CO2 emissions.

Leaders from 194 countries were supposed to finalize a legally binding post-2012 treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. All they came up with was a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming and a pledge to assist developing countries combat climate change.

But Mexican negotiator Luis Alfonso de Alba contradicted de Boer Wednesday in telling Reuters he believes a climate deal is possible.

"Mexico does not want to raise false expectations but we certainly are ambitious," he said. "The UN secretariat, Yvo de Boer and some other actors, the European Commission, Connie Hedegaard, have frequently referred to the impossibility of reaching a legally binding agreement in Cancun, (and) do not imply that important decisions can be taken in Cancun. We do not share that view. They are somehow lowering expectations for Cancun."

Nations divided into camps

Points of contention include whether to refer to the Copenhagen accord, how steep emissions cuts should be, and how to distribute cuts between rich and poor states. Speaking at a news conference in Bonn de Boer told journalists reaching a legally binding agreement in Cancun is "extremely unlikely."

"I think that especially developing countries would want to see what an agreement would entail for them before they would be willing to turn it into a legally-binding treaty," he said.

In fact, developing countries have raised new demands and pressed developed countries to take greater responsibility for climate change. China and the G77 say the new text needs to emphasize more emissions cuts to be made by developed countries.

Male, the island capital of the Maldives

Small island states see their existence threatened by global warming



African countries want a "binding, inclusive, effective" deal made in Cancun which does not replace the Kyoto Protocol. Small island states reject references to the year 2011 in the new text and say the emissions cuts pledged so far are not enough and constitute a "death sentence" for many island states.

A group including the United States, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Kazakhstan and Iceland says the new text "misses key elements." The group wants a "long-term framework" beyond 2010, climate aid and the saving of forests.

Bolivia wants the text to include a target for levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that it specify a percentage of national budgets be allocated for climate action. The country suggested 6 percent of GDP, in line with defense budgets.

The European Union said the new text should refer to the Copenhagen accord and should include emissions reduction targets for individual countries. Tuvalu rejected that any reference to the Copenhagen accord or wording from the accord should be included in the new text.

A factory emits pollution over a layer of smog

The rift between developing and developed countries still exists


Moving on from Copenhagen

Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Costa Rica's Christiana Figueres to replace de Boer. Analysts expect her to shift the emphasis from legally binding emission cuts to developing green technologies.

The 12-day Bonn meeting will attempt to unravel some of the decisions made at the failed Copenhagen talks. The so-called Copenhagen Accord sets a voluntary goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). It was brokered by a couple of dozen leaders in the summit's final desperate hours.

To show that the accord has credibility - and restore trust in the overall process - developing countries are now calling on industrialized countries to honor their pledges of financial support.


Debt crisis

Under the Copenhagen Accord, the European Union, the United States, Japan and other wealthy countries pledged $30 billion (24.3 billion euros) in aid from 2010-2012, with a promise of contributing 100 billion dollars a year by the end of the decade.

A climate researcher looks at a graphic of the world's climate

The EU seems to be backpedalling on intial emissions goals


Faced with the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone, the EU appears to be backpedaling on its initial goal of unilaterally cutting CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2020 against 1990 levels to "kick-start" climate action in developing countries.

EU Commissioner for Climate Change Connie Hedegaard said last week that conditions for a 30-percent move "are clearly not met." The EU had previously proposed increasing their target to 30 percent from 20 percent if other countries followed suit as part of a new climate deal. A study presented by the EU commissioner estimated that this would cost EU countries 81 billion euros.

"Of course, it's not an easy time to discuss money that comes out of the public purse right now," said Hedegaard.

France and Germany - the EU's two largest economies - have warned member countries to tread carefully on the issue.

gps/nrt/AFP/Reuters/dpa
Editor: Nathan Witkop

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