Divisions deepen at UN talks on climate
Publisher: The Financial Times, UK
Author: By Pilita Clark in Durban
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

Fresh divisions have opened up on the second day of the UN climate talks in Durban as China accused the European Union of "shifting the goalposts" to make unfair demands on developing countries over a new global climate pact.

In the most comprehensive Chinese statement yet on the biggest sticking point of the Durban conference, Beijing's lead negotiator, Su Wei, said the whole international climate talks system would be "placed in peril" if the conference did not agree on a second phase of the Kyoto protocol climate treaty.

But he said countries should stick to a road map forged in Bali four years ago that meant developing countries did not have to agree to binding commitments to curb their carbon emissions.

The EU, whose 27 countries are now among the few left willing to agree to a second phase of the 1997 Kyoto protocol, the world's only legally binding climate pact, says it will not sign up for a new round of Kyoto pledges – which developing countries are insisting on – unless all countries eventually agree to similar commitments.

"We think the EU is just shifting the goalposts from one place to another and it's a departure from what we understand the Bali balanced package to be," Mr Su said.

A second phase of Kyoto was a part of that Bali package, he said, adding: "Now the EU is talking about new conditions for them to undertake on second [Kyoto] commitment targets, so that's not fair."

He said that since the EU was the only major group willing to consider a second phase of Kyoto, China and other large emerging economies were willing to listen to their position, but he made it clear they did not believe this necessary, given the Bali road map was already in place.

"We haven't reached agreement on the Bali package. How can we just leave that aside and then try to embark on a new mandate?" he said at a media briefing. "That is not a responsible way of conducting international co-operation. It's also a matter of credibility and trust."

In a further sign of the antagonistic mood at the summit, Mr Su said the EU's contentious move to charge international airlines for their carbon emissions from January had become a factor in the discussions in Durban, though he did not elaborate on precisely what this might mean.

And he repeated earlier threats by the large emerging economies of China, Brazil, India and South Africa that the UN-backed carbon offset programme created under the Kyoto protocol – popular with companies in developed countries as it makes it easier for them to meet carbon emissions targets – cannot continue if there is no second phase of the Kyoto pact.

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organisation reported 2011 is set to be the hottest year in which there has been a cooling La Niña pattern and the 10th warmest since records started more than 16 decades ago.

At the same time, the UN announced that Qatar had beaten South Korea and would host the next round of climate talks at the end of next year.

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