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Time Running Out for December Climate Pact: UN

Alister Doyle

Wildflowers bloom on a hill overlooking a fjord filled with icebergs near the south Greenland town of Narsaq July 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Bob Strong)

BONN, Germany - About 180 nations met for U.N. climate
talks on Monday amid warnings that time was running out for them to
reach agreement on a hugely complex pact, due for completion at the end
of the year.

About 2,400 delegates at the Aug 10-14 negotiations in Bonn will try
to shorten a draft text, outlining options for combating global
warming, that has swollen to about 200 pages from 50 just a few months

"Time is running out," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change
Secretariat, told Reuters in a conference hall where a large clock is
ticking down the 118 days left until a meeting of environment ministers
in Copenhagen in December.

"The challenge of this session is to narrow (the) text down," he said. "We have an enormous amount of ground to cover."

The Bonn meeting, the third in Germany this year, was added because
of scant progress with the deadline looming. After Bonn, talks before
Copenhagen are in Bangkok from September 28-October 9 and in Barcelona,
Spain, from November 2-6.

The 200-page text outlines ideas such as ways to register curbs on
greenhouse gas emissions by developing nations, how to help the poor
adapt to climate change, ways to protect forests and how to raise
billions of dollars in new finance.

Among the most important issues for Bonn was "how rich countries are
going to show leadership to reduce their emissions," de Boer said.

Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations agreed in Italy
last month to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and limit global
warming to no more than a two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) rise
over pre-industrial times."


"We are absolutely not on track" to stay below two degrees Celsius, de Boer said.

Temperatures have risen by 0.7 Celsius in the past century and the
U.N. Climate Panel projects further rises that will spur heatwaves,
droughts, floods, and raise world sea levels.

New Zealand on Monday set a goal of cutting carbon emissions by
between 10 and 20 percent by 2020 below 1990 levels, but said the
targets hinged on goals by other nations in Copenhagen.

"It's a long way below the levels of ambition needed," said Kim
Carstensen, leader of the WWF environment group's global climate
initiative, said of New Zealand's goal.

Developing nations such as China and India want the rich to cut by
at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Average cuts outlined so
far work out at about 10-14 percent.

Michael Zammit Cutajar, chairing talks on the 200-page text, said
that roughly 30 pages would be a goal for the document's length by the
end of the meeting in Bangkok.

De Boer said that there was still a willingness to reach an
agreement despite recession that has made many countries unwilling to
do more to cut emissions. "There's still a huge political will to come
to an agreement in Copenhagen," he said.

Developing nations also said it was vital to have more talks on the
financing of any deal in Copenhagen. African nations, for instance, say
that at least $267 billion a year will be needed by 2020 to help the
poor combat climate change.

With time pressing, Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global
Climate Change said Copenhagen would, at best, agree a framework for a
deal with many details to be filled in later.

And he said it was "highly unlikely" that the U.S. Congress would agree on a climate bill by Copenhagen.


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