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Today's Top News
Climate Deal Blueprint Could Curb US Emissions and Poor Nations' Growth
A new blueprint for a global climate agreement would force the United States to massively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but could also limit developing countries' attempts to grow their economies, diplomats at the resumed global climate change talks said today.
A new draft negotiating text, prepared by the UN secretariat at the close of two weeks of official talks in Bonn, proposes that rich countries cut their emissions between 25-40% by 2020. The draft follows submissions to the UN by more than 185 countries.
It also outlines a goal of cutting global emissions by "at least 50-85% from 1990 levels by 2050". Rich countries specifically would have to cut at least 50-95% from 1990 levels by 2050".
The new targets are more ambitious than those proposed at the Copenhagen climate summit last December but have done little to appease developing countries. Most are still bitter that pledges from rich countries pledges to cut emissions have been nowhere near enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The new draft text is also guaranteed to infuriate the US, which has so far only pledged to cut its emissions 17% by 2020 on 2005 emission levels - far less than European Union countries who have committed themselves to 20% cuts by 2020 and a 30% cut if other countries show similar ambition. "If this text were to be adopted, then the US would find it particularly difficult. It means they would have to do very much more," said one European diplomat.
No explicit mention is made in the text's 22 pages of the controversial Copenhagen accord, the disputed deal that inflamed many poor countries in December but was backed strongly by the US and Britain. However, many elements of it are included in the new text.
Developing countries said today they were dismayed that the proposed text states that all countries should "peak" their emissions in 2020. This would force them to move rapidly away from fossil fuels in just a few years, something which they say is impossible to do given their limited finances and need to improve the lives of their people.
"Peak emissions" was one of the most hotly disputed areas in the Copenhagen summit where China, India and others complained that rich countries were trying to force them to arrest their economic development, effectively handing economic advantage to the US and industrialised countries.
European diplomats professed surprise at the inclusion of the peak emissions reference, even suggesting that a typographical mistake had been made. "This is extraordinary," said one diplomat. "It has no chance of being accepted."
Yvo de Boer, outgoing UN climate chief, admitted the new text had "shortcomings". "It's not a final document. This is an opportunity for countries to express their views. Elements of the accord are now fully integrated into the new text. The language is finding its way into the negotiating process."
He added: "Action to reduce emissions is essential. Industrialised countries' pledges fall well short . More stringent action cannot be postponed."
There was little in the new wording that suggested that rich countries would try to hold temperature rises to 1.5C, as more than half the world's countries are seeking.
As diplomats pored over the 22-page text which must now be formally commented on by all countries and will then be amended by the UN before becoming a possible final negotiating text in August, the consensus among poor countries was that it was deeply biased against them.
"They have watered down key parts of the text. It has glossed over the preferences of the poorest, least developed countries. It is deeply biased against them", said Qumrul Choudhury, lead negotiator for the group of least developed countries.
Martin Khor, director of the Geneva-based South Centre, an international think tank for developing countries, said the text was a step backwards. He said that the rich countries' 80-95% proposed cut would lock in a "grossly unfair" carbon budget, effectively blocking out the carbon space of developing countries.
In addition, he said that the new text implied "the effective end" of the Kyoto protocol, the only international treaty which legally commits rich countries to cut emissions.
"This is an unravelling of the climate regime. It is more imbalanced against developing countries' interests than the old text and has many new negative pointsm," he said.
"This is a one-sided text. We need something that reflects everybody. It is not a base of negotiations," said Pablo Solon, Bolivia's ambassador to the UN.
"The elements of the Copenhagen accord are all there, but not by name. [The problem is] that developed countries have so far shown no signs that they will increase their targets or provide new money," said Kaisa Kosonen, a Finnish diplomat.
"The US government has stonewalled every attempt to achieve a breakthrough that would secure measures to prevent climate catastrophe," said Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Asad Rehman.
"The American position undermines the whole integrity of the UN framework for tackling climate change, and risks a weak climate agreement with voluntary pledges - leaving little or no chance of averting dangerous global warming," he said.
"Big moves are necessary to get these negotiations back on track. The glaring lack of political will from the richest countries has become a signature for these talks," said Oxfam policy adviser Antonio Hill.
Governments now have just two weeks of full negotiating time left before a final summit in Cancun, Mexico in November.