U.N. Climate Talks Start Hunt for Kyoto Successor
A U.N. meeting took a tiny first step on Monday towards finding a successor to the Kyoto protocol on global warming, with calls for the United States and developing nations to take part after 2012.
But India, China and Brazil told rich nations to do more to keep promises of cuts in their own emissions of heat-trapping gases before trying to widen the accord. They also urged the rich to provide more aid and non-polluting energy technologies.
"We need common solutions for the most serious environmental challenge of our time. Climate change is already a harsh reality," German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said at the opening of the two-day seminar of experts from 190 nations.
"Climate protection must not end in 2012. Companies and investors want to plan beyond 2012," he said.
Kyoto entered into force on Feb. 16 after years of delays and weakened by a pullout by the United States, the world's top polluter. The informal Bonn seminar is a first step to start considering what to do after it runs out in 2012.
Under Kyoto, rich nations are meant to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases from power plants, cars and factories by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 to try to slow what many scientists say could be catastrophic climatic changes.
"This is a global problem -- we can't let the United States stay out," Argentine Environment Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia said. Australia, the other main outsider, must also join.
He said developing nations also needed to consider how they could take part in future without stifling economic growth. Under Kyoto, rich nations are meant to take the lead as the main source of pollution since the Industrial Revolution.
A panel of scientists that advises the United Nations projects that world temperatures are likely to rise by 1.4-5.8C (2.5-10.5F) by 2100, triggering more frequent floods, droughts, melting icecaps and driving thousands of species to extinction.
President George W. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying it was too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations from the first period. He said more research was needed.
"U.S. climate policy recognises ... the need to take near-term actions, while maintaining economic growth that will improve the world's standard of living," U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson told the seminar.
He did not outline any goals beyond 2012. Watson said Washington was spending $5.2 billion in 2005 alone on climate and energy scientific research and on energy tax incentives.
Big developing nations, which have no targets to 2012, said rich states had to do more to set an example.
"Emissions are still rising (in rich nations), transfers of finance and technology (to the poor) are minimal," Indian delegate Surya Sethi said. And he said India needed economic growth of eight percent a year to reduce poverty.
Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, New Zealand and Canada are among Kyoto backers further above 1990 emissions levels than non-participant the United States. Emissions by Spain and Portugal, for instance, are 40.5 percent above 1990 levels.
"We hope that (developed nations) will honour their commitments," China's head of delegation Gao Feng said. "The extent to which they do will influence actions in the future."
He also urged more aid to promote energy efficiency and help a shift to use of renewable energies like solar or wind power.
"The best way to ensure post-2012 is to ensure now the success of the Kyoto protocol," Brazil's delegate Andrea Correa do Lago said.