UN climate chief urges avoiding blame over summit

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2009 2:37 PM

The top U.N. climate official said Wednesday that though the Copenhagen global warming summit went sour, countries should avoid blaming each other and get down to work on a better deal next year.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. climate change secretariat, also said it could take months before poor countries begin receiving billions of dollars in emergency funds to adapt to climate change and begin controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases.

A $30 billion fund over the next three years, scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020, was a key element of the deal brokered by President Barack Obama with the leaders of China and other major developing countries at the 193-nation conference that ended last weekend.

But the brief Copenhagen Accord was vague about how the 2010-2012 money would be raised or handled, specifying only that it comes from "new and additional resources" rather than existing aid packages.

"I do not see that funding being disbursed until we have decisions on how that money is to be managed and what it is to be for," de Boer told The Associated Press. That cannot happen until another round of U.N. negotiations, which so far is not due until next June. Extra meetings could be scheduled before then, however.

The Copenhagen deal was negotiated in marathon closed-door sessions during the final day of the two-week conference among a select group of less than 30 countries. The three-page document was "noted" by the full conference after five countries blocked its formal adoption by consensus.

Since then, several countries at the center of the bargaining have distanced themselves from the accord.

The Swedish environment minister, speaking for the European Union, called the conference "a disaster." Britain accused China of vetoing the inclusion of specific emissions targets. China, dismissing Britain's charge of "hijacking" the conference, accused London of fomenting discord among developing nations. South Africa said the failure to produce a legally binding agreement was unacceptable. Brazil criticized the funding for developing countries as inadequate.

"I don't think we are benefited by countries pointing fingers at each other," de Boer said in a telephone interview from London. "The same countries will have to sit down together at the negotiating table next year, and it's better that they do that in a good atmosphere without recrimination."

In an earlier interview with BBC television, de Boer said countries had to work together.

"Yes, things may have gone sour in Copenhagen. Giving each other the blame for that is not going to help," he said.

Critics suggest the U.N. format involving virtually every country on the planet is a formula for deadlock.

De Boer rejected the idea of abandoning the cumbersome U.N. negotiations, which made limited progress on technical questions but failed to crack the tough political issues: setting legally binding emission targets for industrial countries, formalizing commitments by developing countries to restrain emissions growth, and the legal nature of the final agreement that is to be concluded next year.

"In the climate change process decisions are taken by consensus. If you want to change that you need a consensus decision. I don't think that is going to happen," he told AP.

He said the problem in Copenhagen was the result of a deal struck at the last minute by a small group of nations that left no time for the others to assess it and buy into it.

Alongside formal U.N. negotiations, Obama created a parallel track of informal talks among the world's biggest polluters called the Major Economies Forum. Yet another set of informal meetings _ Denmark-sponsored retreats for a few dozen world leaders known as the Greenland Dialogue _ also sought to tackle the core issues.

De Boer said those informal gatherings were valuable, but the lesson of Copenhagen was that "at the end of the day everything has to be brought back to the formal negotiating table" where all states can influence the outcome.