Climate negotiators renewed their skirmishes this weekend at their first conference since the acrimonious summit in Copenhagen, split over how to continue efforts to reach an all-encompassing agreement to control greenhouse gases and help poor countries deal with global warming.
After the letdown of Copenhagen, delegates and officials appeared determine to dampen expectations of a final deal this year, and said negotiations are almost certain to stretch past the next major conference at Cancun, Mexico, in December.
“We should not be striving to get answers to each and every question in Cancun,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. climate secretariat, said on Sunday. “The quest to address climate change is a long journey, and achieving perfection takes practice.”
The unusual three-day meeting attended by 175 countries was called to plot out a course of negotiation up to the Cancun conference. It was likely to approve two unscheduled meetings at a cost of $7 million to $15 million, depending on where they are held.
But procedural questions quickly spawned divisions on issues touching nerves among rich countries, led by the United States, and developing countries.
The split was expressed in the debate on authorising a committee chairwoman to prepare a draft agreement for the next meeting in June, drawing on the results of the summit four months ago in the Danish capital.
The question is how Margaret Sangarwe of Zimbabwe will incorporate the agreement crafted by President Barack Obama in the closing hours of the Copenhagen summit with a small group of other leaders. Also on the table is a draft treaty that had made slow and painful progress through negotiations among more than 190 countries over two years, but which left many of the core issues unresolved.
The Copenhagen Accord addressed many of those crunch issues, but only vaguely and in a nonbinding way.
It said the increase in the Earth’s average temperature should be kept below 2°C (3.6°F) from preindustrial levels. It asked industrial countries to set targets for reducing carbon dioxide and other polluting gases causing global warming, and developing countries to submit national plans for slowing emissions growth. It also called for international monitoring to ensure those goals were met, but did not set any penalties.
Many countries — even among the 120 countries that supported the Copenhagen Accord — denounced the closed-door manner in which it was done and voiced disappointment that its emissions requirements were voluntary.
Some wanted only parts of the accord to be included in the next draft, or none at all. Many island states rejected the accord entirely, saying the 2 degree goal condemned them to sink and disappear under rising seas.
U.S. chief delegate Jonathan Pershing said the accord was a package deal and rejected suggestions “in which certain elements are cherry picked.”
Pershing also confirmed Washington opposed granting financial help to countries that refused to sign on to the Copenhagen deal, which included a $30 billion three-year package of aid for handling climate emergencies and helping poor countries turn to low-carbon growth.
“Countries that are not part of the accord would not be given substantial funding under the accord,” Pershing told reporters. “It’s not a free rider process.”
On Saturday, Bolivian delegate Pablo Solon protested the cutoff of funds from the U.S. Global Climate Change initiative as “a very bad practice” and an attempt to put pressure countries to support the agreement. Mr. Solon said Bolivia would not change its policies.