UN climate talks grudgingly accept treaty draft

Mon Jun 1, 2009 3:47pm BST

* Draft climate text under fire at Bonn talks

* Accepted as basis for negotiations

(Adds quotes by U.N. climate secretariat, U.N. chairman)

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

BONN, Germany, June 1 (Reuters) - Rich and poor countries criticised a first draft text of a new United Nations climate treaty on Monday but grudgingly accepted it as the basis for six months of arduous negotiations.

"We ... have some dismay about the way it has been structured," Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation at the June 1-12 talks among 180 nations in Bonn, said of a 53-page draft outlining ideas from all countries.

"This text should contain more balance," said Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim of Sudan, speaking on behalf of developing countries including China and India.

Despite finding fault, delegates accepted the draft as the starting point for negotiations on a treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December to curb the use of fossil fuels and widen the fight against climate change beyond the existing Kyoto Protocol.

"The session here represents a significant new step ... Governments have on the table for the first time real negotiating texts," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference.

"Clearly there are some hard nuts still to crack ... We have less than 200 days," he said. Offers so far of greenhouse gas cuts by rich countries, for instance, were not enough, he said.

The text's proposals include one that rich countries set aside up to 2 percent of their gross national product to help the poor cope with global warming and suggestions by the rich about how the poor can slow rising greenhouse gas emissions.

"The fact that it's been criticised from all sides probably means it's balanced overall," one delegate said.



"A GOOD START"

The United States, for example, has said the text is weighted towards the interests of developing nations and lacks a clear statement that all countries are going to have to step up action against global warming.

Developing nations say the text has more pages on possible actions by them than on cuts in emissions by the rich. They reject suggestions of setting differing actions for poor countries according to their level of development.

The chairman of the talks said the meeting marked a new phase in talks, launched in Bali in December 2007.

"It was a good start," Michael Zammit Cutajar, a Maltese national, told a news conference. The texts are full of blanks to be filled in about the commitments of all sides.

Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation, hinted the EU might fail to make an offer of financing for a new climate deal until Copenhagen. Developing countries want early promises of cash to help them plan.

"It will have to be before Copenhagen, or in Copenhagen. It's a tactical issue," he told Reuters of the timing of an offer of cash. A June EU summit is due to consider climate finance but might not have enough time.

Outside the meeting, protesters from environmental group Greenpeace, dressed as snowmen, trees, polar bears and camels, warned delegates of the risks of climate change. "Water me!" read a sign on a demonstrator dressed as a giant cactus.

Developing countries say desertification, floods, rising sea levels and heat waves will be most damaging to the poor, and want rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

That is far deeper than levels under discussion by rich governments. (Editing by Andrew Dobbie) (For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/)



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