Grinding pace of UN climate change negotiations after Copenhagen summit

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have held three rounds of its working group negotiations on climate change this year -- in April, June and August -- after the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009. All three rounds were held in Bonn, Germany.

All of the talks involved the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) under the UNFCCC and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitment for Annex I Parties (AWG-KP) under the Kyoto Protocol. The AWG-LCA mainly focused its discussions on a negotiating text, while the AWG-KP largely discussed a draft proposal by its Chair, to prepare for the Cancun Conference later this year in Mexico.

Some officials and negotiators said that while the three rounds of talks had advanced at a grinding pace, they managed to make some contribution towards the Cancun Conference.

-- In April, the UNFCCC launched the first round of climate change negotiations this year and continued to push for negotiations to reach a binding agreement on the extended mandate authorized by the Copenhagen Conference.

During this round of talks, the funding issue, among others, was hotly debated, but no consensus was reached. The UNFCCC, which took effect in 1994, required developed countries to offer financial aid to developing countries to fight climate change. But no significant actions by developed countries have been seen so far.

The Copenhagen Accord pledged to offer 10 billion U.S. dollars per year to poor countries in the next three years, and to increase the aid to 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. Some negotiators said that the amount of money was apparently inadequate, compared with the tough mission of fighting climate change and historic responsibilities borne by developed countries.

The EU said it would pay 2.4 billion euros (3.2 billion U.S. dollars) per year from 2010 to 2012 in a common climate fund, but did not elaborate on how it would raise the funds and where they would be directed. The United States said that it would offer financial aid for poor countries to fight climate change, but on several conditions, such as "an international supervision" on emission cuts in recipient countries.

Further, analysts said that some developed countries seemed reluctant to push forward on climate change issues because of the financial crisis.

-- In the second round of talks in June, delegates criticized a new blueprint for a UN legally-binding climate treaty even as some progress was made in fleshing out the specifics of how a climate regime could work in practice. Progress was made on issues such as the handling of climate funds, transfer of clean technologies, slowing deforestation and capacity building.

However, the Bonn meeting ended with rifts on the draft negotiating text. Many parties criticized and rejected the revised text, saying it failed to reflect the major viewpoints of developing countries.

African delegates said the text was imbalanced, as it confused the independent emission cuts of developing countries with the mandatory cuts of developed countries. Many of their concerns on forest protection, food security and the future of small islands were also left out.

Additionally, delegates from South American countries grumbled that the new text clearly favored rich countries and could not serve as a basis for further negotiations.

UNFCCC chief de Boer admitted that although the text had shortcomings, the negotiations were not a complete failure. All parties then agreed to continue working on a new draft text for further negotiations.

Some observers said it was clear that the chair of AWG-LCA wanted to hasten the negotiations process, but the UN and all parties had to draw lessons from the Copenhagen Conference and remember that "haste makes waste"; and "the balance of interests" would be the best approach to step up the process.

-- In the third round of talks, negotiators continued to focus on issues such as funding. Some developing countries pointed out that the "fast track" funding was not fast at all since there was no clear picture on how to raise and allocate funds.

There was also deadlock on emission cut pledges by rich nations. The United States, one of the main emitters and players in climate talks, seemed vague on whether it would stick to its promise on reducing emissions, as the U.S. Senate decided to abandon a domestic climate bill this year.

However, the U.S. delegate said that the Obama administration would stay committed to reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020, and that the U.S. President would not give up on pushing through a sweeping climate and energy bill.

But some countries said the lack of climate legislation in the United States would inevitably cast a shadow on climate talks, as parties feared that the country would repeat what it did to the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s -- the administration openly supported the protocol but received a "no" answer from the Senate.

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