UN Seeks High-Level Push at Climate Talks

Posted June 17th, 2011 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.N. official in charge of international talks on climate change says world leaders must step in to save the meetings from an impasse.

Summing up two weeks of talks in Germany that appeared to have made little or no progress, the U.N. meeting's executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, said Friday that “high-level political guidance” is needed to produce an agreement to extend or replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires next year.

Figueres says government leaders, not lower-level officials, must work to resolve differences between industrial powers and emerging economies about who must take responsibility for global warming, and what action should be taken to mitigate that trend.

At a news conference in Bonn, Figueres said, “Climate is the most important negotiation [that] the world has ever faced.”

A major world conference on climate change is planned for December in Durban, South Africa.

Almost all negotiators and officials from 180 countries who attended the meetings this month in Germany declaring the session moved too slowly. Delegates had hoped to negotiate either a new treaty or an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which calls on signatories to cut emissions from cars and power plants 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by next year.

China and the developing nations known as the Group of 77 say the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding instrument that can accomplish emissions reductions effectively. If developed countries do not meet their past promises to slow global warming, the developing nations fear that climatic extremes in different parts of the world – heat waves, droughts, floods and rising sea levels – will accelerate, and that these trends will have the greatest effect on the world's poor.

The United States, India and China, the world's largest nations and economies by many measures, never agreed to be bound by the 1997 treaty, which was intended to achieve united action worldwide on reducing emissions. Japan, Russia and Canada say they will not agree to extend Kyoto beyond 2012 unless a new agreement acceptable to them is reached.