Trouble in Tianjin as US reveals lack of progress

The latest round of UN climate change negotiations have resorted to their
standard Groundhog Day setting after senior negotiators revealed the week-long
talks in Tianjin, China are making little progress.

Speaking to a handful of news agencies, US lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing
said that he was frustrated by the pace of the negotiations.

"There is less agreement than one might have hoped to find at this stage,"
he said. "It’s going to require a lot of work to get to some significant outcome
by the end of this week, which then leads us into a significant outcome in

The UN organisers had hoped that the talks could pave the way for some form
of agreement at next month’s annual climate change summit in Cancun by skirting
round the contentious issue of emissions targets and instead focusing on areas
where there is greater consensus, such as forestry protection and climate

officials said yesterday
that no international agreement could be reached
until industrialised countries agreed to more ambitious emissions reductions,
while Pershing reiterated the US view that emerging economies should sign up to
more demanding emissions targets and agree to an independent monitoring regime.

He revealed that the US was trying to hammer out a compromise deal that would
see the poorest nations agree to a simplified monitoring, reporting and
verification (MRV) process, while emerging economies would agree to more
demanding emission reporting standards.

"There’s no question for Brazil, for an India or for a China that they could
implement an MRV program and be transparent," he said. "It makes sense for
countries with the capacity, who make major contributions to emissions globally
and have resources to implement programs."

However, China and others have consistently resisted calls for more demanding
MRV procedures, arguing that such rules would challenge their sovereignty.

They have also insisted they will not agree to more demanding targets until
industrialised nations do likewise, noting that the US goal of reducing
emissions 17 per cent against 2005 levels by 2020 equates to a cut against 1990
levels of around three per cent. In contrast, climate scientists have
recommended industrialised countries should cut emissions by between 25 and 40
per cent against 1990 levels by 2020.

A major report from WWF
warned that based on the emissions targets for 2020 currently pledged
by developed and developing nations, the world would exceed its ‘carbon budget’
for 2020 by almost a third.

Pershing hinted that the deadlock could force negotiators to pursue
alternative mechanisms for tackling global greenhouse gas emissions that could
replace the Kyoto Protocol.

"The consequences of not having an agreement coming out of Cancun are things
that we have to worry about," he said. "It doesn’t mean that things may not
happen; it may mean that we don’t use this process exclusively as the way to
move forward."

But any move to set up alternative negotiations alongside the on-going talks
to extend or replace the Kyoto Treaty are bound to spark waves of protests from
developing nations, who regard the Kyoto agreement as the only legally binding
instrument forcing industrialised countries to reduce their emissions.

The central stand-off between the US and emerging economies has reportedly
polluted the rest of the talks, stalling progress in areas such as forestry
protection, technology transfer and climate financing.

"Things are going very slowly," one delegate from a large African country
told Reuters. "It’s like we’re going round and round in a whirlpool."

According to Bloomberg reports, negotiating teams have once again
resorted to adding sections to the two central negotiating texts that they are
supposed to be working to slim down.

Pablo Solon, the head of Bolivia’s delegation to the meeting, told the news
agency that "very few paragraphs" had changed as developed and developing
countries continue the current stand-off.

He added that industrialised nations were effectively blocking the talks by
refusing to compromise on emission reduction targets.

"We don’t see any kind of movement from developed countries to increase the
level of emissions reduction," Solon said. "If we had a set of commitments that
assured developing countries that the measures will cool the planet, these talks
would be moving very well."

However, Pershing hinted that some countries were disrupting the talks by
attempting to "re-litigate" elements of the Copenhagen Accord that had been
agreed last year.

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