UN climate negotiators ended another round of talks today frustrated again at failing to reach the heart of an agreement.
Later this month, the spotlight shifts from unwieldy negotiations involving nearly every country on earth to the world’s 17 most powerful economies.
Among them, they are responsible for most of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that some scientists say are causing the Earth to overheat.
The aim is to draft a new agreement to regulate carbon emissions, replacing the 1998 Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.
The new accord is due to be concluded at a UN conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.
Haggling over every detail and concept, the UN talks are drawing the general outline of a Copenhagen agreement. But they have made little headway on the core issues: fixing mandatory emission reduction targets for industrial countries, setting objectives for developing countries to rein in their own rapidly expanding emissions, and raising $100bn (€75bn) a year to help poor countries adjust to changing climate conditions.
A deal requires political decisions from both industrial and developing nations, but each group is waiting for the other to put its cards on the table.
Last month President Barack Obama announced he was reviving a Bush-era gathering of the key players on both sides, now called the Major Economies Forum. The first meeting is scheduled for April 27-28 in Washington, with more leading up to a July summit in Italy.
The idea of the more intimate forum is to “try and generate a new level of political will,” said Jonathan Pershing, the new chief US delegate to the UN talks.
“We look at the last couple of years in this negotiation. It has made only very modest progress,” he said.
Environmental activists, who monitor US moves with a critical eye, agree the smaller group holds out some hope for a breakthrough.
Among those invited are the swiftly developing economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa. Korea and Japan join the US, Britain, Russia and representatives of the European Union.
Possibly of equal importance, the world’s two biggest polluters will go head-to-head on climate issues when Mr Obama visits Chinese President Hu Jintao in the second half of the year.
Meanwhile the UN talks go on at an even more intensive pace. Delegates in Bonn decided to add more two more sessions to the two previously scheduled rounds before convening in Copenhagen.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also has called a climate summit to coincide with the annual General Assembly meeting in September.