Meeting in Bonn, the 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started to negotiate a new global pact - to be enacted by 2015 - that, for the first time, will place rich and poor under a common legal regime to tackle climate change, Times Live reports.
Presiding over the maiden session, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane urged countries to set aside "old and unhelpful negotiating practices," a reference to the bickering that typically dogs climate talks.
If the UNFCCC talks succeed, a new accord will be concluded in 2015 and take effect in 2020, placing all countries under the same legal obligation to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions that drive climate change. Currently, legal constraints differentiate between developed and developing countries - a format dating back to the 1990s that critics say is badly out of date. While rich countries bear most of the historical responsibility for global warming today, their place is being taken by emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil, who are already massive emitters of carbon even as they battle to rise out of poverty.
Speaking for small island states, Marlene Moses of Nauru sounded an alarm over the "ambition gap" - the difference between pledges for cutting emissions and what is needed to avoid dangerous warming. Moses warned that the "ambitions gap" was now so wide that by 2015, the negotiations could be talking about how to relocate people from countries that had become inhabitable, Times Live says.