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Climate conference

August 10, 2009

Delegates are meeting in Bonn for the latest round of climate talks in the lead-up to a major conference in Copenhagen in December. However environmentalists warn that previous climate commitments are way off the mark.

Smoke pours from the chimneys of a coal power station
Scientists warn that melting glaciers have already caused seas to riseImage: AP

Delegations from 192 countries are meeting in Bonn to continue negotiations towards a global climate deal, which is to be finalised at a much-anticipated UN meeting in Copenhagen in December. At the recent G-8 summit in the earthquake-devastated Italian town of L'Aquila, developed nations, including the US, promised to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius by 2050. However, climate experts and environmental groups say even two degrees is far too high and would have cataclysmic consequences.

Martin Kaiser, who is representing the environmental group Greenpeace at the UN climate talks, says an increase of two degrees would probably result in the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest.

"(Two degrees) would mean that sea levels would rise by one meter, and it would also mean that much arable land would become so dry that it would no longer be cultivable," he says.

A replacement for Kyoto

In total, five rounds of preliminary talks will have been held by the time the Copenhagen meeting roles around in December.

This third round of talks is intended as an 'informal meeting' and is being held in Bonn, as were the first two rounds. Two further conferences are to be held in Bangkok in September and October, and then in Barcelona at the beginning of November.

The result of the last conference in Bonn was a 300-page document with suggestions from the 192 negotiating countries. The aim of this week's meeting is to reduce the document to between 50 and 100 pages; this will then form the basis of discussions in Copenhagen.

Suggestions abound; commitments are scarce

Protesters hold banners saying "It's getting hot in here"
Protests accompanied the last UN climate talks in BonnImage: AP

Despite the hundreds of pages of suggestions, solid commitments from UN member nations have not been forthcoming. Disputes continue about who should do what and in what time frame. There are also questions about who should provide financing for developing nations so that they can also combat the effects of climate change.

Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, recently told the French news agency AFP that the Kyoto-replacement climate treaty would be crippled without strong commitments from developed nations and would "defeat the whole purpose of the Copenhagen agreement."

Developed nations have been reluctant to agree to concrete commitments without the support of developing nations, especially China and India, two of the world's fastest growing countries with the world's two largest populations. However, China and India say that their commitments should not be equal to those of wealthy countries because their populations are poorer and because they say their nations' growth would be stilted by restrictions.

Author: Helle Jeppesen / Clare Atkinson
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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