1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Climate talks

May 4, 2010

The world climate conference in Germany has produced little more than cautious optimism among leaders. A global climate protocol at the Cancun summit later this year is not expected.

A melting glacier
With glaciers melting, time for action is swiftly running outImage: AP

The Petersberg climate dialogue in Bonn was not a fiasco like the Copenhagen summit - that's what most of those attending could easily agree on.

But then again, critics countered, this was merely because this time the bar had been set so much lower than at the Copenhagen conference, which had sought no less than to come up with a much-needed follow up to the Kyoto protocol.

Some 40 nations attended the talks, which ended on Tuesday, in advance of the November UN climate summit at Cancun in Mexico.

Norbert Roettgen
Germany's Norbert Roettgen has pleged support for developing countriesImage: picte

Politicians were eager to reiterate their general support for fighting climate change, EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard described the atmosphere as "very constructive."

Germany's environment Minister Norbert Roettgen even went so far as saying "the ice is broken."

"We succeeded in having a constructive, trust-building atmosphere. It is hard to over-estimate the importance of this," Roettgen said.

No change from the US and China

But progress was confined to a rather limited range of issues. Overall, little seems to have changed. Connie Hedegaard said she detected no change from the United States and China, the two nations which locked horns at Copenhagen in December.

And the look-ahead to the next big UN conference in Cancun, Mexico, in November was equally cautious. Hedegaard admitted she didn't think the conference would succeed in producing a successor to Kyoto.

Yvo de Boer, the UN's outgoing top climate diplomat, insisted that "Cancun won't be a failure," yet he too conceded that it most likely would not produce a ready-to-sign treaty.

The round table at the Bonn climate dialogue
Getting world leaders to agree on a follow-up to the Kyoto protocol has so far proved a task too tough to handle. The upcoming UN summit in Cancun, Mexico is not expected to deliverImage: AP

Small steps rather than a global deal

So instead of striving for a single big solution, ministers and negotiators in Bonn zeroed in on the smaller building blocks of any future global climate deal. These include mechanisms for measuring and reporting pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, financial aid to developing countries as well as working on incentives to halt deforestation.

"We have reached consensus on forest protection, and there are good perspectives for consensus on technology transfer," Norbert Roettgen said.

He added that talks on strengthening carbon markets were better than previously expected even if some states still had what he called "ideological problems" with them.

The German environment minister pledged that by 2012 Berlin would donate some 350 million euros ($460 million) for forest conservation and an added 850 million euros for technology transfer to developing countries.

Both measures would help to reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere, he said, stressing that practical action would help slow global warming until a new comprehensive agreement is reached.

EU remains at forefront of climate action

After the disappointment of Copenhagen, ministers in Bonn had to tread a fine line between aiming too high or too low. Simply sticking with the Kyoto protocol was not an option, Hedegaard said.

Connie Hedegaard
The EU's Connie Hedegaard insists on Europe's leading role in climate actionImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

"Sure we can continue with Kyoto. But what would that bring? Already, it's plain obvious that Kyoto is not sufficient. We have to find a solution which will include the US, China, India and Brazil."

The EU climate commissioner also stressed that Europe would have to continue taking the lead in pushing the climate agenda.

"Without Europe, climate change wouldn't even have priority on the political agenda," she said.

But the positive atmosphere and constructive mood at the Petersberg diaologue can only go so far in bridging the major differences among the world's leading industrial nations.

The voluntary emissions pledges that were registered in the Copenhagen Accord are still expected to lead to a 3.5 to 4 degree Celsius (6.3 to 7.2 Fahrenheit) temperature increase - far above the 2.0 degree Celsius threshold for dangerous warming.

Greenpeace climate policy director Martin Kaiser criticized both the US and China for not having properly participated in the negotiations in Bonn. With stalled national legislation, the Copenhagen Accord on voluntary emissions reductions will lead to little changes, he said.

"The biggest C02 emitters are so far not on board," Kaiser said, predicting little more than a mood of "frustration and pragmatism" for the Cancun summit.

Editor: Rob Turner