Two-day climate talks 'constructive,' but little hope looms for new global warming pact
NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — In two days of talks, major economic powers discussed ways to move ahead in slowing and coping with climate change, but no one sees a grand global deal anywhere on the horizon, a lead U.S. negotiator said Tuesday.
"This was a very constructive meeting," special climate envoy Todd Stern said of the 17-nation session. But "no one is expecting or anticipating in any way a legal treaty to be done at Cancun this year."
The Mexican resort will host the annual U.N. climate conference Nov. 29-Dec. 10, when delegates from some 190 nations will renew the flagging effort to negotiate a legally binding agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.
Last December's conference in Denmark failed to produce more than a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord," under which at least 85 nations thus far have said they will take action to rein in emissions.
But researchers say the emission reductions envisioned in those pledges fall far short of what's needed to keep the atmosphere from warming dangerously through this century, leading to shifts in climate, worsening droughts and floods, rising seas and other damage.
The negotiations were dealt another blow in July when the U.S. Senate failed to approve legislation to cap U.S. emissions.
Replying to a reporter's question Tuesday, the State Department's Stern said the broader U.N. talks, in their quarterly sessions, have been "going backward" this year.
As the negotiations sputter along, the world grows warmer. The January-August period this year was the warmest globally in 131 years of record keeping, NASA reports.
The New York talks were the ninth round of the Major Economies Forum, established by U.S. President Barack Obama last year as a parallel track to the U.N. process. The dialogue involves the rich industrial nations of the "north," as well as big developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's climate chief, said the latest round demonstrated "a constructive spirit" and "a basic understanding of what could be elements of a package" of decisions at Cancun.
Those nonbinding decisions would involve backing programs, for example, to protect climate-friendly forests, aid poorer countries to adapt to climate change and provide them with clean-energy technology.
Some needy nations and environmentalists complain richer nations are already coming up short on "fast start" financial aid promised in the Copenhagen Accord for climate adaptation — $30 billion over three years.
Stern acknowledged that developing nations expressed some "intense feelings" on the subject in the talks Monday and Tuesday.
Despite the Senate setback, Stern said, the Obama administration remains committed to its pledge under the Copenhagen Accord to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, through executive fiat and continuing to push for the legislation.
The U.N. talks are meant to produce a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, whose relatively modest emissions reductions expire in 2012. The U.S. is the only industrial nation not to have ratified the Kyoto pact.