Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 12:12 UK

UN climate talks split on treaty

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Village in Turkana, Kenya
Drought-stricken African nations are among those seeking climate "damages"

The latest round of UN climate talks in Bangkok has ended with deep divisions over the shape of a new global treaty.

Developing countries want an extension of the Kyoto Protocol; but developed nations are arguing for a completely new agreement.

Poorer countries and environment groups accuse the west of lacking ambition.

There are now only five negotiating days left until the opening of the UN summit in Copenhagen in December that is supposed to finalise the new treaty.

"Just two months before Copenhagen, the Bangkok climate negotiations did little to move the ball forward," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a leading light in the international climate campaign TckTckTck.

Yvo de Boer
What we must do now is to hold back from self interest and let the common interest prevail
Yvo de Boer

"Bold steps are clearly needed from the world's leaders to break the deadlock in the negotiations, and time is running short."

The fortnight of talks in Bangkok began with negotiators looking at about 200 pages of text with 2,000 items that had yet to be agreed.

Progress has been made during the session, said delegates, but fundamental divisions remained.

"This session has shown that it can be done," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN climate convention (UNFCCC).

"All of the ingredients for success are on the table, and what we must do now is to hold back from self interest and let the common interest prevail."

Three-way split

The proposed new treaty's legal form has emerged as a significant issue.

Three options were on the table, said Mr de Boer: a completely new document, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, or a "series of decisions" made at the Copenhagen talks.

This is much more than a technical issue.

Developing countries insist on the Kyoto Protocol route because of the obligations it already contains on developed nations - to cut emissions further than their existing pledges (which run to 2012, the end of the "first commitment period") and to provide finance for poorer countries.


"We have been dismayed by the lack of willingness by several of our developed country partners to move in this direction," said Shyam Saran, leader of India's delegation.

"It is a matter of regret that several (developed) countries are unlikely to meet their emission reduction obligations for the first commitment period.

"And [it is] a matter of even deeper concern than there has been no progress on achieving the key objective of our negotiations - the announcement of second commitment period targets which must be of a scale equal to the challenge we face of global climate change."

Insistence on putting a new agreement inside the Kyoto Protocol framework could, though, prevent any chance of US involvement.

The US Senate did not ratify the Kyoto treaty and would be unlikely to ratify a new agreement built on its principles.

'Foot dragging'

Environment groups, too, had hoped that developed countries would come forward with stronger commitments on reducing emissions and on providing money to help poorer nations adapt to climate impacts.

Norway pledged to reduce its emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020 - the strongest pledge by any country so far.

Oil drill at sunset

But campaigners accused others, notably the EU, of using the absence of a firm US commitment as an excuse for dragging their own feet.

Legislation mandating emission cuts has yet to pass through the US Senate, and may not go through before the Copenhagen talks.

"Other countries are using the US's position as an opportunity to try and avoid stringent legally binding emissions cuts which they should implement at home," said Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth Malaysia.

"So far it looks like the Copenhagen talks could deliver a toothless agreement based on vague pledges that cannot deliver the deep greenhouse cuts that science and justice demand of rich nations."

Delegates convene again in Barcelona at the beginning of November for a further week of negotiations - the final round before the Copenhagen summit.

Mr de Boer noted that at the UN special session on climate change held in New York last month, heads of government had given a "clear mandate" to reach a firm climate deal this year.

But, he said, this needed to be translated into stronger ambitions within the detailed negotiations.

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