European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she hasn’t yet won backing for her demand for a 'road map' pointing to the next climate treaty because some nations are holding back support. Kimimasa Mayama / Bloomberg

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
9 December 2011

China, the U.S. and India, the three biggest polluters, maintained their resistance to a time line leading to a legally-binding climate treaty, threatening efforts to keep up the fight on global warming this year.

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she hasn’t yet won backing for her demand for a “road map” pointing to the next climate treaty because some nations are holding back support. She indicated that China and India remained a bloc. Last night, the U.S. said it won’t agree to begin talks for a legally-binding deal.

“The responsibility lies very, very heavily on the shoulders of those big ones that are not giving in,” Hedegaard said at a news conference in Durban, South Africa. “I’m concerned about the pace. There isn’t much time left. If there is no further movement from what I have seen at four o’clock in the morning, there will be no deal.”

Two weeks of climate talks led by the United Nations are due to end today, and envoys from more than 190 countries remain divided about how to limit fossil-fuel emissions after restrictions in the Kyoto Protocol expire next year.

“The crunch now is between two powerful coalitions -- the U.S., China and India pushing for nothing to be decided until after 2020 and the EU, the islands and Least Developed Countries on the other pushing for a Durban legal mandate to kick off treaty negotiations right away,” said Mark Lynas, climate change adviser to Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed. “Postponing action for another decade would fatally undermine the credibility of the entire UN process.”

The talks are in a “big crisis” because of opposition by the biggest emitters, said Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at the environmental group Greenpeace. “It’s now a big, big task to prevent a crash of the conference by the end of today.”

The EU says it won’t commit to new Kyoto targets after 2012 without agreement on a road map pointing toward a new treaty that would bind all nations. That would require support from China and India, which had no goals under Kyoto. The EU yesterday won support from its plan from 120 nations including islands in the Pacific Ocean and the poorest countries.

The U.S. sent out a statement last night saying that it has not indicated support for a road map to a legally-binding deal. Hedegaard said she had support from South Africa and Brazil, which represent half of the Basic group of major developing nations. China and India are the other two members. […]

Greenhouse gases hit a record last year, and scientists at the conference warned that current pledges leave the world on course for the biggest temperature increases by 2100 since the last ice age ended. Developing nations said they’re upset the industrial nations haven’t already extended Kyoto pledges.

“The climate change effects we’re experiencing in Lesotho and other countries are a matter of life or death because we don’t have the safety nets that the developed world has,” Manete Ramaili, the southern African nation’s environment minister, said in an interview. “We have to have binding targets. It’s a must.” […]

“It’s do or die,” Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, an envoy from Democratic Republic of Congo who speaks for African nations at the talks, said at a news conference. ‘‘If there’s no deal it means we won’t do what’s right for the planet. We’ll be punished by countries that can actually afford to wait.”

World’s Biggest Polluters Stymie Agreement at Durban Global Warming Talks


By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
8 November 2011

Leading scientists warned this week that climate change is accelerating, but this year's U.N. climate negotiations are poised to end without a new binding accord to reduce the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

The 12-day U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, is likely to end today or Saturday much as it began — without a definitive successor to a 1997 global warming treaty, the first phase of which expires next year.

The Kyoto Protocol obligates 37 industrial nations to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 1990 levels, an average of about 5% between 2008 and 2012. It does not require cuts of developing countries, including China and India. The United States never ratified the treaty because of its exemptions for the developing world but has made voluntary efforts to cut emissions.

Now, the European Union says it will not renew its pledges to reduce emissions for another five-year period unless all countries — rich and poor alike — agree to negotiate a new binding treaty. That means it would include the world's two largest sources of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming: the U.S. and China.

"The U.S. is not on board," says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, adding India and China are also playing hardball. "It's very frustrating," he says. "We can't wait another eight or 10 years to raise our game. The science is very clear that we're running out of time."

A panel of federal and academic scientists warned earlier this week, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, that the world's climate will warm faster than predicted. Also, the Global Carbon Project, an international group of scientists, reported that global carbon dioxide emissions jumped the largest amount on record last year — 5.9%. […]

Climate caucus winds down without new treaty

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