December 4, 2007 / 9:43 AM / 13 years ago

U.N. Bali climate talks skirmish over China, India

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A 190-nation climate meeting in Bali began a hunt for a new global deal to fight global warming by 2009 on Tuesday with skirmishing about how far China and India should curb surging greenhouse gas emissions.

"The conference got off to a very encouraging start," said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat of the Dec. 3-14 meeting of 10,000 participants that will try to launch talks on a climate pact to succeed the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.

After an opening day dominated by ceremony, governments set up a "special group" to look at options for launching two years of talks meant to bind the United States and developing nations led by China and India more firmly into fighting climate change.

De Boer said the group of senior officials would report back to 130 environment ministers who will arrive next week at the talks in a luxury Indonesian beach resort.

The meeting also agreed to study ways to do more to transfer clean technologies, such as solar panels or wind turbines, to developing nations. Such a move is a key to greater involvement by developing nations in a new pact beyond Kyoto.

The Kyoto Protocol now binds 36 rich nations to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 in a step to curb droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising seas.

The Bali talks seek a mandate to widen Kyoto to all nations beyond 2012. Of the top world's top five emitters Kyoto only cuts Japan's greenhouse gases, with the United States outside the pact, and China, India exempt and Russia facing easy caps.

BACKTRACKING

But there was controversy about how to share out the burden. Environmentalists accused Kyoto nations Japan and Canada of asking China and India to do too much.

Canada said in a submission to the talks that "to be effective, a new international framework must include emission reduction obligations for all the largest emitting economies". It did not mention deeper cuts for rich nations beyond 2012.

And Japan on Monday called on all parties to "effectively participate and will contribute substantially". A Japanese official said it was "essential" that China and India were involved.

China and India say that rich nations must take on far deeper cuts in emissions and that they cannot take on caps yet because they need to burn more fossil fuels to end poverty.

"Canada and Japan are saying nothing about legally binding emission reductions for themselves after 2012," said Steven Guilbeault of environmental group Equiterre. "They are trying to shift the burden to China and India."

De Boer played down the objections, saying that all nations were merely laying out ideas. "A marriage contract is not something to discuss on a first date," he said. "No proposals have formally been made."

In Australia, new Climate Minister Penny Wong said Australia hoped to be a leader at the Bali talks after Australia ratifed the Kyoto Protocol on Monday, leaving the United States alone in opposition among rich nations.

"We have already said we would expect binding commitments to be on the table for both developed and developing nations," she said, adding the nature of those commitments would be the subject of negotiations.

Outside the Bali conference centre on Tuesday, a group of environmentalists gave a mock swimming lesson to delegates, saying that rising seas could swamp low-lying tropical islands such as Bali unless they acted.

"Sea level rise is threatening hundreds of millions of people," they said. "Sink or swim!"

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/ (Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn, David Fogarty and Adhityani Arga in Bali, James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Bill Tarrant)



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