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At UN climate talks, growing frustration at "snail's pace"
September 4, 2015 / 3:45 PM / 2 years ago

At UN climate talks, growing frustration at "snail's pace"

* UN says talks “on track” for accord at Paris summit

* Unease over sluggish pace with just one week of talks left

By Alister Doyle

BONN, Germany, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The “snail’s pace” of progress on an accord to combat climate change caused widening unease at U.N. negotiations on Friday, with time fast running out before a Paris summit at which a global agreement is due to be reached.

The United Nations said the talks were still on track for that meeting in December following a week of discussions in Bonn to clarify options about everything from cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to ways to raise aid to poor nations.

“We all would want to see this baby born,” Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said of a U.N. agreement meant to chart ways to fight global warming beyond 2020.

“Of course we are all impatient, of course we are all frustrated,” she told a news conference, adding: “We are ... on track with the Paris agreement.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has in recent weeks criticised the negotiations as progressing at a “snail’s pace”.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, an Algerian who co-chairs the Bonn meetings, bristled at the description. He said Ban’s office was on the 38th floor of the U.N. building in New York. From so high up “you don’t see what is going on in the basement,” he said.

“We are making progress... We will be on time in Paris,” he told a news conference.

But there is just one more formal five-day session left, in October, before the summit. A group of protesters in Bonn, urging faster action, sang “It’s the final countdown”.

Senior officials said they had successfully clarified many options in the 83-page draft text, while leaving hard choices for the Paris summit in December. An updated draft would be prepared for early October.

Overriding choices, for instance, range from a goal of phasing out fossil fuels by 2050 favoured by many developing nations to no deadline at all, favoured by many OPEC states.

Some environmental groups said negotiators should make the tough decisions now. “Governments have failed us in Bonn,” said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace, saying that negotiators should set a goal to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century.

“It’s getting very clear that we will get a deal in Paris,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid. But he said it risked being too weak to confront widening problems of droughts, floods and rising seas.

Many delegates expressed guarded confidence.

“I‘m confident we can bridge the gaps, but that takes time and, unfortunately, time is not on our side,” said Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives and chief negotiator for the alliance of Small Island States which fears storms and rising ocean levels. (Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by John Stonestreet)

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