Greece Seeks Regional Deal To Aid UN Climate Talks
Author: Alister Doyle
Greece is pushing for a Mediterranean initiative on climate change that could show a way to breathe life into stalled global climate talks, its environment minister said.
"The most important thing is to create regional alliances," minister Tina Birbili told Reuters in an interview.
Greece is working on an initiative by Mediterranean nations to forge a common stance, a shift from working only in the European Union. The Mediterranean area is set to get drier this century, bringing problems of heatwaves and water shortages.
She said such a regional approach could be imitated by other groups in negotiations on a new United Nations climate treaty, for instance African nations likely to be affected by drought or Asian nations affected by shifting monsoons. Existing negotiating blocs were often too broad to be effective.
"The U.N. blocs seem to be very weak at this point... Why not have all these regional initiatives that could create a regional dynamic in U.N. negotiations?" she said.
Environment ministers from around the world are set to meet for the next U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10 after the Copenhagen summit in December 2009 fell short of a binding deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"I believe that before Cancun, we will have a political declaration on the Mediterranean," Birbili said.
Mediterranean countries, also vulnerable to rising sea levels, could consider merging national plans for adapting to the impacts of climate change into one regional one, she said.
Developing nations, which usually work in the Group of 77, could adopt a similar regional approach in addition to their efforts in the G77, she said.
The G77 represents a wide range of nations with differing interests -- from oil exporters worried that a shift to renewable energy will cut their earnings to Pacific island states fearful that they will be submerged by rising seas.
Birbili said there should be more focus on regional alliances.
Birbili said that a full U.N. treaty was unlikely in Cancun.
"It's very difficult to achieve binding agreements in Cancun," said Birbili, a 40-year old environmental expert.
"We have to make things mature in Cancun, and then agree on a document in South Africa or wherever, in 2011 or 2012," she said.
(Editing by Anthony Barker)