UN Talks Split on Date for Climate Fight Rules
NAIROBI A U.N. conference working to fix long-term rules to fight global warming beyond 2012 "as soon as possible" was split on Tuesday over whether that meant an accord should be struck in 2008, 2009 or even 2010.
Industrial investors, weighing options ranging from coal-fired power plants to wind energy, are frustrated at the possibility of years of uncertainty about rules for fossil fuel emissions upon which carbon markets depend.
"We need an agreement by 2008," said Hans Verolme, climate director at the WWF environmental group, saying that investors needed time to adapt to new regulations on heat-trapping gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels. "We need action."
"I think it's important to the market that an agreement is reached without delay," said Ron Levi, managing director at energy brokers GFI. Speaking by phone from London, he urged negotiators in Nairobi to reach a deal within 18 months.
The Nairobi Nov. 6-17 climate talks are looking at ways to expand the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, which binds 35 industrialised nations to cut greenhouse gases to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Delegates say Nairobi is unlikely to set deadlines.
Last year, ministers at the last U.N. climate talks in Montreal promised to find a Kyoto extension "as soon as possible" with no gap between the first period of Kyoto and a new set of rules starting on Jan. 1, 2013.
"In the European Union we consider it very, very important that there won't be any gap" after 2012, said Finnish negotiator Outi Berghall. Finland holds the EU's rotating presidency.
"But at the same time setting a very precise date could be very difficult and could be counter-productive for the dynamics of the discussions," she told a news conference.
Like environmental groups, Norway also says it favours an end-2008 deadline but many delegations say 2009 or 2010 is more likely. U.S. President George W. Bush, an opponent of Kyoto's caps, steps down in January 2009.
A deal in 2010 would give signatories two years to ratify to ensure a smooth shift after 2012.
Japan's chief negotiator Yoshi Nishimura also said Tokyo wanted to wait and see which countries would be involved before making any commitments to a new period beyond 2012. Japan and the EU are Kyoto's main backers.
Kyoto only covers 30 percent of world emissions and many Kyoto countries want outsiders to take part beyond 2012 -- especially the United States and big developing nations such as China and India.
It took negotiators two years to hammer out and sign the 1997 Kyoto accord, which formally entered into force only in 2005 as a first legally binding plan to combat warming that may trigger more droughts, floods and cause rising sea levels.
Kyoto was delayed by wrangling, especially after Bush pulled out in 2001, saying the plan would threaten U.S. jobs and wrongly omitted poor nations from a first set of targets.
Developing countries also want to wait, saying industrialised nations should continue to lead the way.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said Nairobi will not launch formal negotiations to replace Kyoto -- that will have to wait until the next meeting in 2007. He said a new deal might not be ready until 2010.