UN climate talks stalled as Russia seeks rule change

by Michael Szabo | Reuters
Thursday, 6 June 2013 17:00 GMT

A Greenpeace activist dressed in a polar bear costume takes part in an event to draw attention to threats to the Arctic ecosystem, from climate change to oil drilling, on the Moscow river, near the Kremlin in Moscow, April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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LONDON, June 6 (Reuters Point Carbon) – U.N. climate talks in Bonn remained stalled for a fourth day on Thursday as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine sought to address what they said is a lack of formal decision-making rules after the countries were snubbed at a previous meeting.

The two-week talks are tasked with making progress towards agreeing a global climate pact in 2015, but negotiations have gotten off to a slow start due to attempts by the three nations to amend one of the meeting’s many agendas to discuss how future decisions should be made.

“This is of paramount importance for ensuring the soft-landing for a future agreement,” said Oleg Shamanov, Russia’s lead climate negotiator, adding that the 20-year old negotiating process has no formal rules on how to pass law.

“This is a systemic issue. Unless we put our house back in order, we may not be able to guarantee that in 2015 we end up with something productive.”

Decisions taken at the United Nations climate meetings, which are attended by environment and energy mininsters, are normally taken by consensus.

However, the past three annual meetings have spurred claims of underhanded tactics after objections by Bolivia, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus to decisions launching carbon markets and outlining future emission reduction targets were ignored.

By far the biggest country to be snubbed was Russia at the 2012 talks in Doha, when Qatar's vice prime minister gavelled through international law that extended emission reduction targets and carbon markets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah brought the hammer down on the two-week long talks as Russia's negotiator was waving furiously just two metres away in a bid to stop passage of the law, which forced harsh targets on Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Christiana Figueres, the U.N.’s climate chief, said a consensus was reached, but Oleg Shamanov, Russia’s head of delegation, called it an “absolutely obvious violation of the procedure”.

The three nations are now considering pulling out of Kyoto.

In 2010, Bolivian chief negotiator Pablo Solon claimed that security had blocked him from attending the talks, while a year later Venezuela's envoy had to stand on a chair to voice her objections.

Jayanthi Natarajan, India's minister of forests and environment, said she was threatened and told not to object to any text at talks in Durban in 2011.

“In the past we have very negative examples where procedures were not followed ... and the culmination point was Doha. It’s unacceptable,” Shamanov said on Wednesday.

“It’s in everybody’s interest that the rules of the game are respected and that the talks progress given the challenge we are facing, but frankly, Russian broke the rules first by pulling out of Kyoto and by not taking any climate action even though it's a major emitter,” said Hans Verolme of the Climate Advisers Network.

Other parties including the EU said that while it was important to formalise the body’s decision-making process, the mid-year Bonn session was not the appropriate venue and the issue should instead be dealt with at high-level talks in Warsaw in November.

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