Slow start, dim hopes at U.N. climate talks in Bonn

by Michael Szabo | Reuters
Monday, 3 June 2013 18:00 GMT

German army soldiers on a dinghy patrol flooded areas of the Bavarian town of Passau, about 200 km northeast of Munich, June 4, 2013. Torrential rain in the south and southeast of Germany caused heavy flooding over the weekend, forcing people to evacuate their homes. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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BONN, June 3 (Reuters Point Carbon) – International negotiators met in Germany on Monday for a fortnight of U.N. talks aimed at forging a new global climate pact by 2015, but observers expected little progress on key issues such as whether countries would deepen their emissions reduction pledges or how to raise cash to help poorer nations fight climate change.

The talks will have another stab at resolving a dispute between rich and poor nations over how to share the burden of cutting greenhouse gas output, a critical step towards a global deal to fight climate change by 2015 to start in 2020.

"The negotiations are now in a crucial conceptual phase of the 2015 agreement ... Stakeholders need to provide clear inputs as to where more ambition is possible, and where international policy guidance from governments can unleash even more action on their part,” said U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

The EU wants to set a 2014 deadline for all countries to outline plans for cutting emissions, ahead of a formal review of the pledges before the end of 2015 to ensure they are collectively ambitious enough to ward off the worst effects of climate change.

But the measure is more formal, and the deadline earlier, than sought by some governments including the United States.

“We are worried ... the process of countries just putting forward pledges is probably not going to give us the result we need,” said the EU’s lead negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger.

Figueres reminded countries they must also deliver on existing pledges to scale up climate finance to $100 billion per year by 2020, but green groups expected no new money to be pledged in Bonn.

“Delegates are highly constrained. Because of the political climate in almost all developed countries, it’s very hard to commit monetary resources to international purposes,” said Sivan Karath of the Stockholm Environmental Institute.


The June 3-14 meetings pick up from talks in early May, where new, more flexible ways to fight climate change were sketched out, a milestone negotiators said showed the process was on track to achieve results at larger U.N. negotiations in Poland later this year.

“We hope that at (the Bonn) session, governments will build on these areas by engaging on topics where differences can be bridged and further enlarge common ground,” said India’s Jayant Moreshver Mauskar and Norway’s Harald Dovland in a joint statement.

They are co-chairs of the ADP, one of the negotiating tracks tasked with developing a global treaty to come into force in 2020 and deepening pre-2020 pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to accelerate the ADP’s work to get concrete results in Warsaw in November, and this is the last session before that so time is short,” said David Walsh, an EU negotiator from Ireland, current holders of the bloc’s rotating presidency.

Delegates said another round of talks, normally held after the summer, was unlikely because governments had not pledged the funds required to host the meeting.


The start of another negotiating track at the Bonn talks was delayed on Monday after Russia, Belarus and Ukraine protested events from last year’s summit in Doha, where Qatar’s vice prime minister - the meeting's chair - ignored Russian amendments.

Russia's negotiators were trying to overturn a complicated provision that capped the emissions of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine at 2008-2010 levels, potentially denting their economic growth.

Russia spent most of Monday trying to get an item added to the Bonn meeting’s agenda to address what it had called an “obvious violation” of procedure at the Doha talks.

“It’s a valid point ... (but) this is something which is always unwelcome. The agenda is not being adopted, instead it’s being held up by discussions,” the EU’s Runge-Metzger said.

400 PPM

The Bonn talks are also expected to make headway in areas including improving ways to measure deforestation and better protecting vulnerable people against loss and damage from climate events such as rising sea levels.

But green groups said negotiators faced more pressure to make progress this fortnight following news that global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit 400 parts per million, a level scientists said has not been seen in several million years.

“Every moment counts, especially given (this) landmark and that there is likely to be as few as five negotiating sessions between now and (the end of) 2015,” said Enrique Konstantinidis of Climate Action Network Latin America.

By Michael Szabo

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