New clock ticks at sluggish U.N. climate talks

April 2, 2009

 A curious thing is happening at a U.N. meeting in Bonn this week on a new climate pact – countries least interested in a deal such as OPEC members are doing more and more of the talking.

Organisers of the talks have set up a new ”Countdown to Copenhagen” clock in the main hall (above left) to try to spur the sluggish negotiations. It shows 248 days left until the talks in the Danish capital in December.

But in many ways it’s misleading because, as U.N. climate change chief Yvo de Boer pointed out at the start of the 11-day meeting on March 29, there are only 6 weeks of formal negotiations left to work out a new global response to climate change.

Delegate after delegate has spoken of a need to speed up the negotiations.

You might expect to hear more and more advocates of a deal to fight global warming passionately outlining innovative proposals – U.S. delegates have spoken warmly of a renewed commitment under President Barack Obama but without yet giving many details. 

But in Bonn the countries most worried that a climate deal would damage their economies are talking more and more, compared to many past meetings I’ve been to.

Saudi Arabia  (which won a “Fossil of the Day” award from environmentalists on Wednesday for the delegation they judge to be most obstructive) has repeatedly expressed worries in plenary meetings about side effects such as a loss of oil export revenues if the world shifts to renewable energy. Like Saudi Arabia, other oil exporters have also spoken at length.

Environmentalists fear that it is a tactic to slow the negotiations, from a crawl to a standstill.

So to ensure that a deal gets done, one option under consideration is — more meetings. Another week of talks in Bonn in August and perhaps two in Spain in November?

Is there a better way to get a deal in Copenhagen?

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Yes there’s a better way, to simply end the senseless debate over who can and/or should achieve this or that emissions reduction targets,–which is seeming as likely to be counterproductive to the goals of a new treaty– and place the emphasis of negotiations squarely into a global framework that will stimulate economic growth and reward those who achieve greater advances in sustainability; the worst case scenario of the scientific consensus should be THE reference, and it probably is making sense now to also account for the likely-hood that global warming/climate change impacts will be felt with increasing escalation of severity over the term of the new treaty rather than a predictable course; … many, if not virtually all of the oil exporting countries have gained extreme wealth and so they are in a position to spearhead new tech. to measurably cancel out at the minimum, the current impacts of fossil fuels extractions and consumption, and if they achieve this their main economic drivers need not be negatively impacted by a very strong and forceful treaty, in fact how much they may end up benefiting becomes up to them!

Posted by Billy Douthwright | Report as abusive