Rich, Poor Nations Wrangle on Global Warming
NAIROBI Rich and poor nations wrangled on Thursday about how to widen a fight against global warming beyond 2012 to break deadlock at U.N. talks on combating what many delegates call one of the biggest threats to the planet.
About 70 environment ministers at the Nov. 6-17 meeting have agreed steps to help Africa and other poor nations cope with feared impacts such as drought and floods. But they are deeply divided on how to extend the Kyoto Protocol for curbing warming.
"Sometimes it's not easy to solve problems among the three parties in government (in Germany)," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. "Here you have 189 (nations) and its difficult to find solutions."
"My own sense is that none of the action or activity is at the sort of pace the world needs, but momentum is probably building," Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell told Reuters.
At the talks, many rich nations are pushing for a detailed review of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets caps on emissions of greenhouse gases by 35 industrial nations, as a prelude to widening the scheme to poor nations such as China and India.
"It's not realistic to finalise such a comprehensive review here in Nairobi. We must agree here in Nairobi about how to fix a time line," said Finnish Environment Minister Jan-Erik Enestam, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
Poorer states say Kyoto nations should concentrate on setting new, tougher targets for themselves beyond 2012 for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.
"Our partners in the developed countries have not yet shown us the lead in implementing their commitments," a Sudanese environment ministry official said on Thursday.
Poorer nations fear that any deep review will be a way to lure them into making expensive commitments.
A statement by African states said a planned review of Kyoto, set for the Nairobi talks under the text of the deal agreed in 1997, "has taken place". It said it focused on promoting investments in clean energy such as wind and solar power in developing nations and aid to adapt.
The European Union, which accounts for 14 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions, wants poor countries to start braking their own emissions but Enestam said the EU was not seeking Kyoto-style caps for developing nations.
"We are not proposing binding targets for the developing countries," he said.
One senior diplomat said developing nations might agree to a fuller review of Kyoto in 2008 if rich states agreed to set new goals for themselves by the end of 2009.
He said there was awareness of a need for progress after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that climate change was one of the biggest threats to the planet and that there was a "frightening lack of leadership" on the issue.
The United States, the world's biggest source of emissions, is not taking part in the talks about Kyoto. President George W. Bush pulled out in 2001, arguing that it wrongly excluded poor nations and would cost U.S. jobs.
Many nations are reluctant to set new goals for Kyoto until they know the views of a new U.S. president in 2009.
Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, said that the meeting was largely meant to focus on Africa's needs. "I believe we will have that signal. Therefore it will not have been a waste of time to have this (meeting) in Africa," he said.
(With extra reporting by Daniel Wallis)