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Bangkok Climate Talks Fail to Resolve Core Issues

BANGKOK, Thailand, October 9, 2009 (ENS) – The latest round of United Nations climate negotiations concluded in Bangkok today with mixed results. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer spoke of a “constructive” two weeks of talks, and said that “all the ingredients for a successful outcome in Copenhagen are on the table.”

But European Commission President Jose Barroso told an audience of editors from around the world meeting in Copenhagen today that he remains “very worried by the prospects at this stage of the negotiations, where we are dangerously close to deadlock.”

Delegates at the UN climate negotiations in Bangkok (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Attended by some 4,000 people, the Bangkok talks were aimed at hammering out a global climate deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. The deadline comes in December at the annual UN climate conference in Copenhagen where a deal is supposed to be sealed.

Environmental groups are frustrated that negotiators in Bangkok “could not move forward on most significant issues such as finance commitments and institutions, emission reduction targets and the legal nature of the actual outcome of the process,” in the words of global conservation organization WWF.

Norway was an exception to the emissions target reluctance, saying it would cut emissions by as much as 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 “if this can contribute to achieving an ambitious climate agreement where the major emission countries take on concrete emission obligations.”

U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing (Photo courtesty ENB)

This goes beyond the EU commitment of 20 to 30 percent, and is far beyond anything the United States has offered. The recently released Kerry-Boxer bill in the U.S. Senate calls for a 20 percent cut, and the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House of Representatives in June requires a 17 percent cut – but these are cuts below 2005, not 1990, levels. The Kyoto Protocol mandates an average 5.2 percent cut below 1990 levels.

U.S. officials acknowledged in Bangkok that they may not agree to any targeted emissions cut in Copenhagen until Congress passes climate legislation.

“It will be extraordinarily difficult for the U.S. to commit to a specific number in the absence of action from Congress,” State Department deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said. “The question is open as to how much we can do. It’s not really possible to answer.”

De Boer reminded reporters in Bangkok that world leaders set out a clear mandate to prevent dangerous climate change at last month’s New York summit, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York. That event drew some 100 heads of state and government who issued a call for a comprehensive pact to be reached in Copenhagen.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer at Bangkok press conference (Photo courtesy ENB)

De Boer credited the Bangkok talks for “rapid progress on concrete ways to implement the mandate” during the past two weeks, but said the negotiators “are still hanging on to long-held differences.”

“A will has emerged in Bangkok to build the architecture to rapidly implement climate action,” said de Boer, who serves as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He stressed the urgency of raising ambitions and “bridging the disconnect,” adding that “now is the time to step back from self interest and let common interest prevail.”

With the next set of climate talks in Barcelona only three weeks away, de Boer said he hopes negotiators will use the time to go back to those world leaders who called for a breakthrough in Copenhagen and get from them a mandate to resolve the key political issues that remain outstanding.

Claire Parker, head of delegation for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, said delegates in Bangkok have made “substantial progress on the text of a new global climate change agreement.”

“But commitments for sizeable cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 are still missing, and are needed before such a deal can be closed,” Parker said. “Developed and developing countries do not see eye-to-eye as to who must make efforts to cut their emissions, and when.”

Still, Parker said, the UN climate change negotiators are beginning to recognize that “managing nature better helps people adapt to climate change and can actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Progress is being made in the negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, which also includes conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD Plus).

Demonstrators inside the conference hall show their support for forest protection and indigenous rights. (Photo courtesy ENB)

“REDD Plus is capable of delivering durable emissions reductions,” says Carole Saint-Laurent, IUCN senior forest policy advisor. “However, it must be agreed that countries will be rewarded as they move from preparation of REDD Plus actions to verified performance for putting in place safeguards for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and good governance arrangements, including the participation of stakeholders.”

At this negotiating session, women made their presence felt and demanded recognition in any new agreement that is signed.

“Women need to be part of the solution and not the victims of deficient decisions taken on their behalf,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN’s global senior gender advisor. “In many cases entire communities depend on them for their livelihood. If gender considerations are not sufficiently incorporated into a new climate deal, millions of lives stand to be lost.”

This situation even worsens as access to natural resources becomes scarcer due to climate change, the UNFCCC Women’s Caucus at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks said in a statement Thursday.

Women march for gender justice in Bangkok, October 2, 2009. (Photo courtesy ENB)

The Women’s Caucus is urging governments to include this statement in the Shared Vision, which serves as the outcome document’s preamble,”The full integration of gender perspectives is essential to effective action on all aspects of climate change, adaptation, mitigation, technology sharing, financing, and capacity building. … The advancement of women, their leadership and meaningful participation and engagement as stakeholders in all climate related processes and implementation must be guaranteed.”

The rift between rich and poor countries has intensified because rich countries have not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change and develop on a low carbon pathway, international aid agency Oxfam said on the last day of UN climate negotiations in Bangkok.

Oxfam senior climate adviser Antonio Hill said, “The millions of people facing greater floods, droughts and failed harvest after failed harvest will be the real losers if the U.S., Canada, EU, Japan and Australia continue as blockers to the UN negotiations.”

“The U.S. has been silent on the scale of finance it will commit to, and has yet to adopt an ambitious emissions reduction target by 2020, giving negotiators none of the political clout necessary to unblock negotiations in make-or-break areas,” Hill said.

He said the desire of the European Union, Japan, Canada and Australia to accommodate the United States and abandon the Kyoto Protocol was an example of the “poor leadership on show by all these countries these past two weeks.”

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