Business Day (Johannesburg)

14 June 2010

South Africa: New Draft for Climate Deal One 'We Can Work On'

Johannesburg — CLIMATE change talks limped to a close in Bonn, Germany, on Friday with many countries expressing disappointment over the new preliminary draft text on a global agreement, but agreeing to carry on negotiating at the next meeting in August in Cancun.

A global, co-ordinated response is necessary to help developing countries reduce their carbon emissions while also providing for ambitious targets for industrialised countries. Economists and scientists said delays in reaching an agreement would increase the costs of mitigation while making it more difficult to keep climate change to below catastrophic levels.

Yvo de Boer, outgoing head of the United Nations (UN) climate secretariat, said the past two weeks had made "important progress" but campaigners for action on climate change criticised the text for ignoring the concerns of developing countries.

"Countries have been talking to each other, not at each other," Mr De Boer said at the session's closing press conference. He said progress had been made on a mechanism for climate finance, adaptation to climate change, technology transfer for developing countries, and the preservation of tropical forests which absorb much of the world's carbon emissions.

SA's lead negotiator, Alf Wills, said he was not happy with the text but "we can work on it". Brazil, a close ally, echoed this sentiment, as did Lesotho, for the Least Developed Countries group.

Bolivia, however, was scathing. Ambassador Pablo Solan said developing countries' proposals had been ignored in favour of those from industrialised countries and elements of the Copenhagen Accord, the controversial political agreement signed last year outside of the UN negotiating process.

There is still conflict between parties over the size of the targets that industrialised countries should take on, and how much action should be taken by developing countries, which need to create jobs and grow their economies.

Japan said it had some concerns with the text but there were also positive elements, and Spain's Alicia Montalvo said parties would have to work hard to ensure a "balanced outcome" in Cancun.

"For us, it is important that we have a text," she said.

Mr Wills had hoped to persuade delegates to wrap up proceedings by 3pm, in time for the opening match of the World Cup, but negotiations dragged on into the night.

Civil society organisations were fiercely critical of the draft.

"This text reflects a real imbalance, there is no room for concern about equity or justice," Mohamed Adow, programme officer at Christian Aid, said. "If negotiations continue in this direction there will be no international climate law worth talking about and that would condemn millions of people, particularly in Africa, to unsurvivable food and water shortages."

Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental think-tank, described the text as a "step backward".

Talks were thrown off kilter in Copenhagen last year, where countries hoped to conclude a deal but ended with a political accord drawn up by the US, SA, Brazil, India and China.

Since then countries have tried to build trust and confidence in the negotiating process, in order to work towards a partial agreement in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year, with a full agreement in SA next year.

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