U.N. insists to guide climate talks, despite setback

OSLO/LONDON Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:26pm GMT

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OSLO/LONDON (Reuters) - The United Nations insisted Wednesday that it should keep guiding talks on a new climate pact despite near-failure at a summit last month when a few countries agreed a low-ambition "Copenhagen Accord."

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N.'s Climate Change Secretariat, said negotiations in 2010 would be based on U.N. talks launched in 2007 about how to extend the existing Kyoto Protocol and on involving all nations in action.

The three-page Copenhagen Accord, championed by big emitters including the United States and China, could however be a valuable spur toward agreement at the next U.N. meeting in Mexico in November, de Boer said.

"I suppose in theory you could have a parallel structure but that strikes me as an incredibly inefficient exercise," he told a news conference webcast from Bonn of the prospects of also negotiating on the Copenhagen Accord.

The Copenhagen Accord seeks to limit global warming to less than 2 Celsius above pre-industrial times and holds out the prospect of an annual $100 billion in aid from 2020 for developing nations.

But it omits setting cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed by 2020 or 2050 to achieve the temperature goal.

De Boer left open, however, whether Mexico would result in a legally binding treaty as urged by many nations.

He spoke of "Mexico or later" for final texts meant to step up a drive to slow more heatwaves, floods, species extinctions, powerful storms and rising ocean levels.

MISSED DEADLINE

The failure of the U.N. negotiations to achieve a deal despite a deadline set for the end of 2009 after two years of talks launched in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 has cast doubt on the U.N.'s future role.

Big emitters such as China, the United States, Russia or India may simply prefer to negotiate in smaller groups such as the G20 or a "Major Economies Forum" of nations accounting for about 80 percent of world emissions.

Under U.N. rules a deal has to be adopted by unanimity. In Copenhagen, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Sudan blocked the conference from adopting the Copenhagen Accord.

"Copenhagen didn't produce the final cake but it left the countries with all the right ingredients to bake a new one in Mexico," de Boer said.

He said he had written to all nations asking them to say if they backed the Copenhagen Accord, and to give details of their plans for curbs on greenhouse emissions by 2020, by a January 31 deadline set in the accord. But he said that was flexible.

"I don't expect everyone to meet the deadline," he said. "You could describe it as a soft deadline, there's nothing deadly about it." Officials say few nations have so far submitted plans.

He also urged developed countries to start disbursing aid to developing nations under a plan to raise close to $30 billion from 2010-12, even though new mechanisms for guiding funds were not yet in place.

De Boer also played down worries that U.S. President Barack Obama would find it hard to persuade the Senate to pass climate capping laws after the Democrats lost a Senate seat to the Republicans, and with it a 60-40 majority that helps streamline decision-making.

"The change of one state from one party to another is not going to cause a landslide in the United States on the question of climate change," he said, saying that momentum for action had been building for years in the world's No. 2 emitter.

Analysts say failure by the United States to pass a climate bill this year may scupper U.N. negotiations to agree a new treaty to replace Kyoto from 2013.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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