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Archive for Saturday, December 15, 2007

UN chief disappointed by climate talks, urges compromise plan

December 15, 2007

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— U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was disappointed by the level of progress at a climate conference today and urged delegates to quickly approve a compromise plan to launch negotiations for a new global warming pact.

A last-minute dispute between developing countries and the U.N. blocked progress at the two-week conference, despite a compromise that resolved a dispute between the United States and Europe.

Ban, who addressed the conference in an attempt to smooth over the differences, said the proposed plan was "good and strong" and should be adopted.

"Frankly, I'm disappointed about the lack of progress," Ban told delegates.

The conference has been marked by a fierce battle between the EU, which had argued for explicit goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and the United States, which said targets should be determined by two years of upcoming talks.

The European Union said today it backed a compromise proposal. But in an unusually harsh statement, China accused the U.N. of calling on delegates to vote on the document even though developing nations were still negotiating for changes. India also objected to a part of the text.

Humberto Rosa, a Portuguese environment official representing the EU, told delegates the proposal had been brokered in a "good cooperative atmosphere."

"It results from a compromise," Rosa said. "It was elaborated with the engagement of all the parties."

Talks on the document, which lays out the agenda for climate talks leading to a global warming pact taking effect at the end of 2012, had run through the night. Delegates were debating how far future negotiations should go in trying to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

After closed-door talks, delegates reconvened in the morning to consider the compromise proposal. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was arriving later, either to announce the launching of the "Bali Roadmap" negotiations or to help break any lingering impasse.

The negotiating agenda set at Bali, and the results of two years of negotiations to follow, will help determine for decades to come how well the world can hold down its rising temperatures.

Delegates had sparred for days over the wording of the conference's main decision document. The most contentious point was the EU's push to set a goal of reducing industrial nations' emissions 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Trying to break the deadlock, conference president and Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar proposed revised language dropping explicit mention of numbers while substituting a reference to a U.N. scientific report suggesting the 25-40 percent range of cuts.

Witoelar's proposal provided a basis for a long-expected compromise, producing a relatively vague mandate for the two years of negotiations. As worded, his draft "Bali Roadmap" would not guarantee any level of binding commitment by any nation.

On developing countries, including such big emitters as China and India, the draft would instruct negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to voluntarily curb growth in their emissions.

U.N. climate chief Yvo De Boer said worldwide public opinion was forcing the more than 180 national delegations to find a way to agree.

"I don't think any politician can afford to walk away from here," he told reporters. Asked if that included the United States, he responded, "Perhaps most of all the United States."

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