UN talks seek to ease global warming dispute
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
MONTREAL, Canada (Reuters) – A U.N. conference opening in
Canada on Monday will try to step up a fight against global
warming by drawing the United States and developing nations
into U.N.-led agreements beyond 2012.
About 10,000 delegates — from 189 governments,
environmental lobby groups and businesses — will attend the
November 28-December 9 talks meant to start mapping out what to
do after the first period of the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol ends in
“We have no choice” but to act, Canada’s Environment
Minister Stephane Dion said of the fight to curb a
human-induced warming that may spur more hurricanes, floods,
droughts and drive up sea levels by almost a meter (3 feet) by
Climate change “is the worst threat the world is facing
from an environmental perspective. … It’s putting at risk our
relationship with the planet,” he said on the eve of the talks.
But the world is deeply split over what to do.
The United States, the world’s biggest polluter, and
Australia have rejected Kyoto, under which 40 industrialized
nations have agreed to cut their emissions of heat-trapping
gases by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
President George W. Bush has said Kyoto would eliminate
U.S. jobs and wrongly excludes developing nations. He is
focusing on new technology, rather than Kyoto-style caps.
But many nations and environmentalists say tougher action
is needed, including a start to talks on involving developing
nations such as China and India in limiting the growth of their
The 10 hottest years since records began in the 1860s have
come since 1990 and most scientists blame rising temperatures
on a build-up of greenhouse gases from carbon dioxide released
by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.
“We think we should have agreement on what comes after
Kyoto by 2008,” said Jennifer Morgan, climate policy expert at
the WWF environment group.
She said 2008 would give businesses, and investors in new
markets for trading in carbon dioxide emissions, enough time to
adapt. Government delegates said, however, that no timetable
was likely to be set by the talks.
On Monday, the meeting will open with ceremonies and pleas
to find ways to break the deadlock. Dion is due to be elected
president of the conference even though Canada’s minority
Liberal government looks set to lose a vote of confidence later
on Monday that will trigger an election campaign.
Dion would, however, stay on as head of the Montreal talks.
The meeting includes both the 156 nations which have
ratified Kyoto and a total of 189 countries, including the
United States, which back the wider U.N. climate convention.
The meeting will seek to reaffirm details of the rules for
Kyoto, including penalties for noncompliance, and to streamline
a scheme meant to attract investments in clean energy projects
in developing nations.
The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) says
$100 billion could be channeled into projects in the developing
world, like using solar energy in Kenya or methane in Peru, if
the “clean development mechanism” were reformed.
Inuit hunters whose livelihoods are under threat from a
melting of polar ice handed out samples of indigenous foods to
delegates on the eve of the talks — including slices of
narwhal, an endangered tusked whale.