Analysis: World divided on new plan to combat global warming

Oct 1, 2011, 6:29 p.m.
Cattle is silhouetted at feedlot at Santa Maria da Amazonia farm in Sorriso, in the central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

By David Fogarty

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A new plan to curb global warming risks becoming a battleground between rich and poor nations and could struggle to get off the ground as negotiators battle over the fate of the ailing Kyoto climate pact.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol covers only emissions from rich nations that produce less than a third of mankind's carbon pollution and its first phase is due to expire end-2012. Poorer nations want it extended, while many rich countries say a broader pact is needed to include all big polluters.

Australia and Norway have proposed negotiations on a new agreement, but say it is unrealistic to expect that to be ready by 2013. They have set a target date two years later, in 2015.

"This is the only way ahead. There is no other way than failure," said a senior climate negotiator from a developed country on the Australia-Norway proposal, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Developing nations insist Kyoto be extended to commit rich countries to tougher carbon cuts and fiercely resist any attempts to side-line the world's main climate pact, meaning the Australia-Norway plan faces a tough time .

Failure to agree on a new climate deal could lead to nations committing only to voluntary steps that are unlikely to put the brakes on climate change, risking more extreme droughts, floods, storms and crop failures. It would also weaken efforts to put in place tough policies to promote cleaner fuels and green energy.

The proposal calls on major economies to quickly strengthen steps to curb emissions, agree on a way to standardize actions and a system to compare and verify what everyone else is doing.

Marathon U.N.-led climate talks failed to meet a 2009 deadline to agree a new pact to start in 2013 and a major conference in Durban, South Africa, in two months is under pressure to launch a process to negotiate a new treaty.


As negotiators haggle, data show the world is heating up, as emissions, particularly from big developing nations, keep growing from burning more coal, oil and gas.

Scientists say floods similar to those that left millions homeless in Pakistan last year and ravaged parts of Australia, could become more common, along with more intense Atlantic hurricanes and wildfires.

The United States has already tied its yearly record for billion-dollar weather disasters and the cumulative tab from floods, tornadoes and heat waves this year has hit $35 billion, the National Weather Service said in mid-August.

That doesn't include billions in losses and disaster relief from Hurricane Irene , which struck in late August.

All this throws the spotlight on emissions curbs by the world's major economies and the fact that these are not enough. When Kyoto was agreed, emissions from poorer nations were much smaller. Now they dwarf those of rich countries.

At the least, the talks need to restore faith that countries can do more to fight global warming.

"We need to push away from this annual cycle of what are we going to achieve into a more realistic timeline of when can we achieve a new agreement. My sense is that none of the negotiators disagree with that. It's obvious," said the senior delegate.

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