Developing countries end talks boycott

POOR countries ended a boycott of UN climate talks yesterday after getting assurances that rich nations were not conspiring to soften their commitments to cutting greenhouse gases, European officials said.

European Union environment spokesman Andreas Carlgren said informal talks resolved the impasse, which was started by African countries and backed by major developing countries, including China and India.

Rich and poor countries “found a reasonable solution”, he said.

Developing countries agreed to return to all working groups that they abandoned earlier in the day at the 192-nation conference, said Anders Frandsen, a spokesman for conference president Connie Hedegaard.

The boycott had disrupted efforts to forge a pact on global warming and forced the cancellation of formal working groups, delaying the frantic work of negotiators trying to resolve technical issues before the arrival of more than 110 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, later this week.

The move was largely seen as a ploy to shift the agenda to the responsibilities of the industrial countries and make emissions reductions the first item for discussion today.

“We are really prepared to discuss all issues in the negotiations. It means also absolutely all issues under the Kyoto Protocol,” Carlgren said.

The developing countries want to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which imposed penalties on rich nations if they did not comply with its strict emissions limits but made no such binding demands on developing nations.

Poor countries, supported by China, said Hedegaard had raised suspicion that the conference was likely to kill the Kyoto Protocol. The US withdrew from Kyoto over concerns that it would harm its economy and that China, India and other major greenhouse gas emitters were not required to take action. China is now the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter.

It was the second time the Africans have disrupted the climate talks. At the last round of negotiations in November, the African bloc forced a one-day suspension until wealthy countries agreed to spell out what steps they will take to reduce emissions.

“They are trying to put the pressure on” before Obama and other world leaders arrive, said Gustavo Silva-Chavez, a climate change specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

“They want to make sure... developed countries are not left off the hook.”

Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Fund said “this is all part of the negotiating dynamic, especially as you get closer to the end game”.


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