Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tempers Rise as Climate Talks Stall; UN Official Sheds Tears

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The head of the United Nations' climate unit walked out of global warming talks in Bali, Indonesia in tears, as tempers flared among nations wrangling over the terms of a new climate change treaty.

Talks aimed at setting a negotiating agenda leading to a new international treaty on fighting global warming to replace the Kyoto Protocol were suspended twice after China and India objected to some of the language in the draft document.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, left the auditorium in tears after China's delegation demanded to know why the session had twice been started while separate talks were ongoing elsewhere.

``The secretariat was not aware that meetings were going on elsewhere,'' de Boer said, before closing the book in front of him and walking off stage. He returned about 15 minutes later.

Tempers rose during an earlier session when Sun Guoshun, a member of the Chinese negotiating team, told the plenary meeting: ``I'm not sure whether the secretariat is our secretariat, and I would like to ask for an apology.''

De Boer was then heard to say ``I have been offended now,'' before Witoelar suspended the session a second time.

Talks overran yesterday's deadline and carried on into the early hours as delegates tried to reach a compromise. The European Union and developing nations clashed with the U.S. over language outlining greenhouse-gas emissions reduction targets for industrialized countries and possible commitments by developing nations such as China and India.

`Game of Chicken'

``It's a big game of chicken right now,'' said Andrew Deutz, senior policy adviser for UN affairs at the Nature Conservancy. ``The U.S. doesn't want to move unless they know India and China are going to move, and India and China of course don't want to move until the U.S. does.''

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon canceled a speech in Jakarta today to stay in Bali and push for a compromise.

``This has been a tough set of negotiations,'' said Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, the co-chair of the Bali negotiations. ``We were cautiously optimistic last night about the progress that was being made, unfortunately that progress has not continued this morning. But we are still attempting to proceed to a negotiated resolution.''

Delegates resumed today for a plenary session designed to adopt all decisions made during the two-week conference and set a deadline for a new climate accord. When he came to the contentious document, Witoelar, the president of the conference, urged delegates to ``exercise leadership'' and accept the text.

EU Agrees

Portugal, speaking for the EU, agreed to the document, before India, speaking on behalf of the G77 group of developing nations, and then China, objected to language describing efforts developing nations should take, forcing the session into recess. The meeting resumed after a 100-minute pause, and the fractious exchange led to a second halt.

``When the ministers broke up last night there were two options'' for the disputed text, Prodipto Ghosh, an adviser to the Indian delegation, told reporters after the meeting was suspended for the second time. ``Our understanding was both would be available for discussion in the plenary. The president in his wisdom chose one option,'' he said, referring to Witoelar.

``Our minister would prefer the second option.''

At issue are two paragraphs in the so-called Bali Roadmap for a new climate treaty that calls for ``commitments or actions'' from all developed countries to reduce emissions blamed for global warming. Developing countries should take ``appropriate mitigation actions,'' according to the text.

``The Americans would like the two paragraphs to look as much alike as possible and the Indians want them to look as different as possible,'' said David Doniger, former head of climate policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and now climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He spoke in an interview in Bali.

`Not Good Enough'

The U.S. succeeded in its aim to have removed from the preamble of the text a statement that developed nations should slash emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. Instead, a footnote was placed, referencing passages in reports by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that call for emissions cuts of as low as 10 percent in the same period. That left some delegates unhappy.

``An ordinary person picking up the text will then have to follow the reference and find it on page seven hundred and whatever it is,'' Grenadian Ambassador Angus Friday, a spokesman for 39 small island states, told reporters early today in Bali. ``That's not good enough.''

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in Nusa Dua at ; Kim Chipman in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, at .

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