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Planet Ark World Environment News Finance key as U.N. talks on climate deal resume

Date: 29-Aug-12
Country: Japan, UK
Author: Andrew Allan and Stian Reklev

The U.S., Japan and the EU will come under pressure this week to pledge billions of dollars a year from 2013 to help the world's poorest nations fight climate change, as negotiators from more than 190 countries meet to advance talks on a new global climate pact.

Delegates will gather for a week-long U.N. meeting in Thailand on Thursday to agree a work plan towards signing in 2015 a new pact that would force all nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases starting in 2020.

The talks are expected to put pressure on traditional richer nations to ensure pledges to provide $10 billion per year in climate finance do not expire in December without new aid emerging, and come as the world's largest economies struggle to rein in their debt and budget deficits.

"In Bangkok, governments will be forced to focus on the fact that at this stage no new money has been pledged for climate finance in 2013 and that up to 90 percent of the finance provided in 2010-2012 has simply been pre-existing foreign aid repackaged," said WWF in a media statement.

The issue could test a nine-month old negotiating alliance between the EU and poorer nations that was formed in Durban at last year's climate talks and was seen as crucial in putting pressure on big emitting nations to promise to sign up to a new deal.

"There will be pressure from small island states and least developed countries on the EU to make those pledges. I am sure that finance will get some airplay in Bangkok," said Wendel Trio, director of environmental group CAN Europe.

PROGRESS

The meeting is a pre-cursor to end-of-year ministerial talks to be held in Qatar, where the EU said it would adopt a second legal goal to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol starting in 2013, providing all nations have shown commitment to sign a new climate deal that will take effect after Kyoto 2 ends.

But progress on a global deal has been slow after negotiators at climate talks in Germany in June took a longer-than-expected five days just to agree who should steer the talks over the next three years.

Seasoned observers say unless things advance more quickly, the EU could stall on signing Kyoto, meaning no country would be legally bound by international agreement to cut emissions after this year.

"(Negotiators in Bangkok) will have to make decisions that give a little more flesh to the bones on the one-and-a half-page agreement in Durban," said Alden Meyer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a long-term observer of U.N. climate meetings.

"Everyone knows if there is no progress on the Durban work plan then the (Kyoto) deal is off," he said, adding it was unlikely the EU would walk away from the treaty, but said heel-dragging could put off other countries from joining the bloc under Kyoto.

Last week, Australia's main opposition party, which is favored to win next year's general election, said it would not object to signing a second round of targets under the treaty, putting pressure on the current Labor government to act.

"I don't think Australia will come forward on the Kyoto Protocol in Bangkok," said Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of Australia-based Climate Institute, adding that he expected the Australian government to hold out until Qatar before making its mind up.

EQUITY

Key to progress at the Bangkok talks will be if nations can resolve the highly-charged issue of whether advanced developing economies should be allowed to adopt softer emission targets than more traditional industrialized nations under any new deal.

India and China want richer countries to have more ambitious goals due to their historic emission levels.

Meanwhile the U.S. wants all nations to have the same type of targets backed by legal force - a move that would shatter a 20-year old principle in environmental politics that all nations share common but different responsibilities to tackle climate change.

"I think if they can get some agreement on the equity and differentiation front that would help. But that is going to be hard for countries like the U.S., who say the Durban Platform represented the death of the firewall between developing and developed countries," said Meyer.

Another thorny issue will be how to get countries to deepen voluntary pledges to cut emissions before a new treaty comes into effect in 2020 to ensure the planet does not warm to catastrophic levels.

Rich nations have pledged to cut emissions on aggregate up to 18 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, far below the 25-40 percent cut that scientists say is necessary to keep warming below dangerous levels.

"In Bangkok there are a number of workshops on how (those pledges) can be increased. Unfortunately given that not a single country appears to be moving, I am not optimistic," said Trio.

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