EU demand for climate pledge raises hurdle at UN talks

Updated: Nov 29 2011, 08:48am hrs
The European Unions demand for a road map leading to the next legally-binding global warming treaty raises a hurdle that may snarl negotiations at the United Nations climate conference this week. The 27-nation bloc said it accounts for about 11% of global emissions and that it cant act alone on emissions blamed for damaging the environment. Limits under the Kyoto Protocol expire next year. Japan, Russia and Canada have ruled out more commitments under that pact.

We would only be politically able to move ahead into a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol if there is at least a road map forward with others saying when they are going to come into the climate fight, Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commissions lead negotiator, said on Sunday at a press briefing opening the talks in Durban. The comments, from Kyotos strongest supporter in the industrial world, mark the blocs biggest set of preconditions and complicate talks to rescue the only international treaty on cutting greenhouse gases.

Developing countries oppose binding targets for themselves and view the continuation of Kyotos goals for richer nations as the key to the fight against climate change even without Japan, Russia and Canada onboard. Theyre concerned the EUs plan, calling for a treaty coming into force by 2020, as a way of delaying action.

The UNs diplomat leading the talks said the question of Kyotos future is the most important one facing delegates, though she wouldnt discuss where the EU position would drive the talks.

The US has signalled it opposes the EU plan. Todd Stern, the state departments climate envoy, told reporters in a November 18 briefing that its premature to make promises about the legal form of a climate agreement before seeing its contents. US officials are scheduled to brief journalists in Durban on Monday.

The EU timeline may also jar with findings by the International Energy Agency and three UN bodies this month. IEA chief economist Fatih Birol had said that with current energy policies, the door is closing to a future in which temperature gains are constrained to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since industrialisation, a goal adopted by UN envoys at last years talks in Cancun, Mexico.

The US says it wont agree to a binding accord unless all emitters are included. China and India, which had no commitments under Kyoto, have become two of the worlds three top polluters since the pact was agreed in 1997.