UN climate talks break down over procedural dispute

by Andrew Allan, Reuters Point Carbon | Reuters
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 19:00 GMT

A garden with a swimming pool is inundated by the waters of the Elbe river during floods near Magdeburg in the federal state of Saxony Anhalt, Germany, June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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LONDON, June 11 (Reuters Point Carbon) - A key strand of U.N. climate talks meant to draft law forcing nations to cut emissions broke down on Tuesday after Russia, Ukraine and Belarus blocked progress for eight days over a dispute on how laws should be passed.

The so-called Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), one of two bodies that advise envoys at annual U.N. climate talks, was due to discuss how to compensate poor nations for future loss or damage suffered as a result of global warming caused by rising emissions of heat-trapping gases.

But the meeting will now end in Germany on Friday without negotiators having discussed any items on the agenda after Russia said it could not take part unless voting rules for passing law were clarified.

Developing nations say compensation is a key element of a new global climate pact, which is meant to be signed in 2015 and take effect from 2020.

Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. climate body overseeing the talks, told envoys: “When parties come together the next time to consider the work of the SBI, I trust that we will be able to derive lessons from both the past and this current session and begin deliberations in a very different spirit.”

The current dispute stems from last year’s climate talks in Doha, Qatar, where in the dying minutes the chair ignored Russian objections to gavel through legal decisions that extended the Kyoto Protocol and outlined a timetable for negotiations towards a post-2020 global pact.

Russia said it is not seeking to change the decisions, but said the way they were made contravened the U.N. principle that laws were made by consensus. It called for further debate on the matter.

“This is of paramount importance for ensuring the soft-landing for a future agreement,” said Oleg Shamanov, Russia’s lead climate negotiator.


Annual two-week long negotiations in Bonn are meant to help draft international law which is then typically debated at interim gatherings in September or October before being signed off by ministers at the main climate summit at the end of each year.

However, no interim talks have been scheduled this year after governments declined to pay for them, meaning the next time the issue can be discussed is in November in Warsaw where ministers were originally meant to sign off on the plan.

"It is essential that the time (until Warsaw) is used for discussions at the highest political level on how to resolve the issue so that this body can take forward its important work," said Tomasz Chruszczow," Chair of the SBI.

Campaign groups say the goal to establish a compensation mechanism is now at risk.

“It has jeopardised the timetable to establish a loss and damage mechanism in Poland,” said Mohamed Adow, global climate change advisor at Christian Aid.

“Loss and damage was a key outcome (of last year’s talks). This works against the interest of developing countries,” he said.

The U.N.'s Figueres said in a prepared statement that while the development was "unfortunate", much good work had been accomplished."

She said talks had progressed on the design of the new agreement and how to identify ways to immediately respond to climate change.

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